Tuesday, February 3, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, peace actions are scheduled to take place in the US, the US rushes to release Iraqi prisoners, more stories emerge on the provincial elections, and more.
Starting with an action that begins this week in the US. 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 Washgton 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.
Meanwhile A.N.S.W.E.R. explains:
We are organizing a Mass March on the Pentagon on Saturday, March 21, and it is important that you and your family, friends, co-workers and fellow students put on your marching shoes that day. People are coming from all over the country. Simultaneous demonstrations are taking place in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Why are we still marching even after the war criminal George W. Bush has left office? Because the people must speak out for what is right. More than 1 million Iraqis have died and tens of thousands of U.S. troops have been wounded or killed.
The Iraq and Afghanistan war will drag on for years unless we act now. The cost in lives and resources is criminal regardless of whether the Democrats or Republicans are in charge of the government.
[. . .]
If Bush's war and occupation of Iraq was an illegal action of aggression -- and it was -- how can the new government say that it can only gradually end the war over a number of years? The Iraqis don't want foreign military forces running their country. No one would!
The Pentagon has employed 200,000 foreign contractors (mercenaries) and 150,000 U.S. troops to maintain the occupation of Iraq. They have no right to be there. A few thousand are being brought out of Iraq only to be redeployed to occupy Afghanistan, and the fools in the media proclaim "the war is winding down." That is not true.
President Obama decided to keep the Pentagon just as it was under Bush. He even selected Bush appointee Robert Gates to keep his position as chief of the Pentagon. Gates announced that the new administration would double the number of troops sent to Afghanistan. That is certainly not the "change" most people though was coming following the end of Bush's tenure.
Meanwhile United for Peace and Justice is reportedly planning something. Soon. Any day now. If not action, maybe a series of glossy pin-up photos of Barack suitable for framing in the best fan-worshipping, Tiger Beat manner. Remember, United for Peace and Justice may be sleeping on the job but they are dreaming -- very moist and wet dreams. Someone change the sheets already. Cindy Sheehan (World Can't Wait) calls it like it is:
Many anti-war activists are concentrated on insuring that Obama fulfills his campaign promises to withdraw "combat" troops from Iraq without having the integrity to demand complete withdrawal of all troops and a return to total sovereignty of the country to the people of Iraq, and are not questioning Obama's determination to double troop strength to Afghanistan.I think the US MIC empire needs to be destroyed, but I would prefer that we incorporate a voluntary reduction of empire, before the weight of The Empire® collapses like a house of cards on us; or on the innocents of Afghanistan.
In Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki demonstrates a puppet can be taught a few tricks. Among them, how to seize control of the daily news cycle. Sinan Salaheddin (AP) repeats what al-Maliki's government is saying -- repeats instead of reporting. Samira Ahmed Jassim has confessed! There's a video of the woman allegedly also known as Umm al-Mumineen ("the mother of all believers") stating she is the one who has recruited over "80 female suicide bombers". The first sentence tells you she "has been arrested." You have to wade through many paragraphs to discover she was arrested January 21st. So the video confession is all the more doubtful and may have been produced under torture. (And bruises hide so much better when you're wearing "an all-ecompassing black Islamic robe".) If al-Mumineen is the or a recruiter, it really makes little difference. She's not a hypnotist -- if she is, that's the only allegation AP's forgotten to present as fact. At best, she provided an avenue to those already prepared to seek violence. It goes to the gender stereotypes of women to believe that they had to be 'corrupted.' The violent response on the part of some Iraqi women is a perfectly natural response to what they are living under. ("Natural" is not the same as "legal." But we're not addressing that. We are continuing to address the pathologizing of one gender.) Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) manages to cover the same government issued spin but manages to lower the frentic tabloid nature. But it's only Deborah Haynes (Times of London) who can use the term "suspect" in the first sentence of a report? Why is it only Haynes can refer to the DVD played at the press conference as an "apparent confession"?
To be clear, Haynes has done her job as a journalist. In any country, it is not the job of the press to take a government's claims and present them as fact. In a country where justice is a joke, where human rights organizations and the United Nations have documented reports of tortured confessions -- including from female prisoners -- a press that simply repeats claims of the government as fact isn't offering news. They are offering tabloid-style entertainment. Haynes also notes, "At least 36 female suicide bombers attempted or successfully carried out 32 suicide attacks last year, compared with eight in 2007, according to US military data." As we've noted before, there are many, many more male 'suicide bombers' than female. But there's something about when it's a woman that tends to make the press minds go all mushy. Maybe it's a sexual response (akin to the way some are turned up by a woman holding a gun -- on screen, in photos or in real life) or maybe it's panic that a woman would think of death. Oh goodness, it's also troubling and frightening -- apparently.
It's not impossible that Samira Ahmed Jassim has recruited women to be bombers and it's not impossible that she hasn't. She stands accused, she's not been tried. And those with any short term memory at all will remember last month when Iraqi officials told the press someone had expressed regret and then his family finally got to see him and, turns out, he didn't say what the Iraqi officials were telling the press. Whether Samira Ahmed Jassim is a recruiter for female bombers or not, the bombings will continue. And while CNN may think acknowledging that women in Iraq have "always" been part of the resistance by "helping feed militants, hiding them in their homes and helping to sneak weapons around the country," the women have been far more active. And note how passive that last phrase is. Women didn't sneak weapons, according to CNN, they helped to.
If Nouri's smart, he'll continue to play the press via women since he has so many willing cohorts in the press. Willing cohorts in the press? File it under "Not since Frank Pitcairn so desperately attacked the Trotskyites out of his love for Stalin has a professional journalist so disgraced himself," Patrick Cockburn found himself a true love: Nouri. At the Independent of London, Patrick writes the kind of garbage that his own father (writing under the psuedonym Frank Pitcaim) would hold his nose at. Patrick write a valentine to Nouri and Nouri's amazing powers and . . . Patrick leaves out the part that he was out of Iraq for most of last month as he covered the assault on Gaza. Patty's been playing pocket pool around Nouri for months now and let's hope he's racking up an impressive score with that because he's leaving his journalist reputation in tatters.
Patty's thrilled with Nouri's awesome election 'power.' In the real world, Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal's Baghdad Life) noted that while driving through Sadr City on Saturday (the day provincial elections were held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces) appeared to have far fewer people on the streets "than other parts of the city" (Baghdad). The paper's Jafar Jani reports, "Um Ali, 56, took her grandsons to the polling station on Saturday so they could dip their fingers in ink, which shows that people had voted, even though they were too young to cast a ballot. . . . Um Ali said she wanted her grandsons to remember this moment and feel the joy of voting in a free election." McClatchy Newspapers' Iraqi correspondents surveyed West Baghdad on election day where 25-year-old Mohammed Allawi stated, "What optimism?? We are an occupied country. I am voting only so that my vote will not be stolen by the corrupt people who are willing to do anything to remain firm on their seats. But it seems I am not even considered an Iraqi citizen -- I can't find my name anywhere -- and my family has been in Ameriyah nearly forty hears." Two women explain, "We couldn't vote! We couldn't find our names. We have been to two centres, and aim to go on looking until we find them or are too tired to go on." Over and over, voices from West Baghdad reveal that they had trouble voting. Hmm. Could the puppet have learned from Florida 2000? Could the puppet, knowing west Baghdad was always anti-Maliki, have pulled off purging voter rolls? Who knows? But with low voter turnout it's amazing that so many Iraqis -- throughout the country -- repeatedly tell that they had to visit more than one polling station over and over. What -- however it happens -- appears to be a very serious problem results in this 'response' from election commission chair Faraj al-Haidari, "It's not our fault that some people couldn't vote because they are lazy, because they didn't bother to ask where they should vote." The voters are lazy. That's the problem. Voters who went from polling station to polling station -- mainly on foot. They're lazy. That's the problem. That's what the story's going to be?
Apparently so -- if Sam Dagher and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) are going to continue to suffer from Patrick Cockburn Disease. The two attempt to hail Basra as a victory for Nouri -- who was not running in the elections. Despite the fact that Basra had an incredibly low turnout, they see the vote as an endorsement of Nouri. The non-participation rate reads like a rejection of the so-called government on every level. And if you lived in Basra when it was under assault (March 2008) maybe you'd take the attitude of "I'm not voting" as well? Your local government didn't protect you when al-Maliki and thugs rolled into town. One level of government assaulted you and the other stood by. Why bother to vote? Based on the preliminary turnout, what can be argued about Basra can be argued about the bulk of Iraq which is why turnout was so low. 26% more registered voters voted in 2005 than voted on Saturday. Dahger and Myers declare, "In choosing Mr. Maliki, many in the south seemed willing to sacrifice more local considerations like patronage." A) Basra was assaulted and the local government did nothing to protect it. Yes, you will find some people who support the assault -- and you can even quote him as the paper does -- but the bulk of the people did not approve (as was obvious at the time and is obvious in the voter turnout). That's why they stayed home. As for 'patronage,' al-Maliki went around the country promising everything or are we supposed to forget his multiple attempts at bribery via promises regarding local services all the way up to 'The US is leaving Iraq in less than 16 months! It is so, it is true! Because I, al-Maliki, say it!'? al-Maliki didn't play the patronage game? Worse for the two reporters, Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) filed today:
The prime minister has sought to boost his party, which favors a strong central government, over another Shiite faction, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which supports a semiautonomous Shiite Muslim region in the south.
Maliki has named Issawi to head a local tribal body funded by his office, and appointed one of the sheik's sons to a job in Baghdad. He has summoned Issawi to conferences in the capital city, where he has listened to his ideas for the nation's future. Observers say that if Maliki wins a large share of provincial council seats in the oil-rich southern provinces, it is in large part because of his diligent wooing of men like Issawi.
al-Maliki attempted that in every province. Note the last observation "Observers say that if Maliki wins a large share of provincial council seats in the oil-rich southern provinces, it is in large part because of his diligent wooing of men like Issawi." Basra recently attempted to become it's own federation, like the KRG in the north. The effort failed. Let's note CNN's first sentence when reporting on that, "A drive to boost the political and economic power of Iraq's oil-rich southern province of Basra has failed, Iraqi election officials said Wednesday." Oil-rich? Check. Southern province? Check. Ned Parker one more time, "Observers say that if Maliki wins a large share of provincial council seats in the oil-rich southern provinces, it is in large part because of his diligent wooing of men like Issawi."
The results are still not final and already there's a concentrated effort to spin the elections results in non-candidate Nouri's favor. Reality, as Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "Voter turnout in Iraq's provincial elections Saturday was the lowest in the nation's short history as a new democracy despite a relative calm across the nation. Only about 7.5 million of more than 14 million registered voters went to the polls. Interviews suggest that the low voter turnout also is an indication of Iraqi disenchantment with a democracy that, so far, has brought them very little."
Meanwhile there is news on the Iraqi prisoner front. AFP reports that 70 Iraqis imprisoned by the US military were released today and that the US military claims they will begin releasing approximately "50 a day." That would mean 1,500 a month and, at the end of October, Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) noted the US had 17,000 Iraqis imprisoned. In December, John Catalinotto (Workers World) estimated the US had 50,000 Iraqi prisoners in custody? Regardless of the number, they were all supposed to be released or turned over to the Iraqis on January 1st per the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement. That treaty went into effect January 1st. It is February 3rd when this rush measure suddenly takes place. At 1,500 a month -- whether the total is 17,000 or 50,000 -- it's going to take some time for the US to release the prisoners -- a task they were supposed to have completed no later than January 1, 2009. Remember that the next time someone starts insisting, "Well the SOFA says . . ."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Baquba roadside bombings in a ten minute span that wounded five people, 1 bomber blew himself up in Kirkuk, a Mosul roadside bombing left four people inured, and, dropping back to last night, a Kirkuk mortar attack but the mortar proved to be inert and there were no reported injuried. Reuters notes six were wounded in the two Baquba roadside bombings and a Kirkuk roadside bombing that left two people injured.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Mosul. Iraq Body Count notes two corpses were discovered yesterday in Makhmour. [Note: Iraq Body Count has a slideshow presentation online here.]
Meanwhile the Green Party has weighed in on the healthcare debate (this is a Green issue, they've weighed in many times already but this is the first since the presidential inauguration):
President Obama has a choice -- he can either work for universal health care or he can satisfy the demands of insurance industry lobbies for continued private profit, said Green Party leaders today.
Greens, in demanding a Single-Payer national health care program (also called Medicare For All), said that there was no possibility of guaranteed quality health care for every American under a market-based system. Rep. John Conyers' (D-Mich.) bill for Single-Payer (HR 676, http://thomas.loc.gov/home/gpoxmlc110/h676_ih.xml) has strong Green Party support, although many Greens also hope to see complementary medicine brought under the Single-Payer umbrella.
"President Obama needs to follow his own campaign rhetoric and listen to the American people. In many of his own town hall meetings, the demand for Single-Payer has been so strong that [Secretary of Health and Human Services] Tom Daschle has asked to meet with Single-Payer groups. Single-Payer will make health care a human right -- one more important than the 'right' of insurance companies to make a profit off our need for health care," said said Mark Dunlea, New York Green, member of the Hunger Action Network of New York State, and author of "Can Incrementalism Be the Path to Universal Health Care?" (http://www.hungeractionnys.org/increment.html)
Green Party leaders expressed special support for pro-Single-Payer organizations and coalitions that have shifted into high gear under the new presidential administration, including the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care, Healthcare-NOW, California Nurses Association, and Physicians for a National Health Program.
"President Obama's plan to have all medical records computerized within five years has made Single-Payer even more urgent. The plan will create an enormous risk for patients' privacy and security, as private health insurers try to weaken privacy safeguards and gain access to records in an effort to exclude people from coverage, or make coverage more expensive for clients they consider high-risk. HMOs and insurance firms make their profits by cherry-picking patients who are less costly to insure and by limiting treatment for those with coverage, so they use medical records to determine who will be a financial risk. The only way to guarantee both protection from predatory corporations and access to health care for all Americans is to enact a Single-Payer program," said Jill Bussiere, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States.
Greens have argued that enactment of a Single-Payer program would boost the ailing US economy and provide relief for businesses large and small, since it would cancel the high expense and administrative burden of employer-based health care benefits (http://www.gp.org/press/pr-national.php?ID=158). Single-Payer would lower the cost of health care for all middle- and low-income Americans, since the amount of taxes necessary to sustain Single-Payer would be far less than the cost of private coverage and medical fees. No American will go bankrupt because of a medical emergency in a Single-Payer system.
President Obama, despite supporting Single-Payer earlier in his political career, now favors a health care plan that would maintain private insurance industry control over Americans' health care. Profit-making insurance, HMO, and pharmaceutical lobbies have a grip on most Democratic and Republican members of Congress because of campaign contributions and the influence of lobbyists.
Montana Senator Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, wants the Single-Payer option "off the table" in the discussion on health care reform and, along with other Democrats, has proposed a market-based plan that would achieve universal coverage by requiring Americans who lack health coverage to purchase insurance from a private company.
"There will be no meaningful improvement in our nation's health care system or any chance of universal care until Single-Payer is enacted and profit-making insurance companies no longer decree who gets care and what kind of care," said Jody Grage, treasurer of the Green Party of the United States. "Any 'mandate' reform plan that leaves private insurers in charge will either result in inadequate care or in huge taxpayer-funded subsidies to cover the loss of profits for HMOs and insurance companies compelled to cover people these companies would otherwise exclude. Single-Payer will cover all Americans regardless of age, income, or prior medical condition, and by eliminating the need for private insurers and the high profit rate they demand."
"Even state based Single-Payer initiatives are being undermined by the president's insurance-based proposal. Here in Pennsylvania we have a strong bill, with the funding included and a governor who has agreed to sign the legislation if passed (http://www.healthcare4allpa.org). Yet the Healthcare for All Now campaign, which supports the Obama plan, is trying to give the illusion of change, while maintaining the inefficient, exploitative insurance model. It amounts to a waste of tax dollars to provide more government money to insurance companies," said Carl Romanelli, 2006 Pennsyvlania Green candidate for the US Senate.
Read "An International Perspective on Health Care Reform" by Connecticut Green Party member John R. Battista, MD (http://www.gp.org/first100/?p=119), published on the Green Party's web site as part of "The First 100 Days: What Would a Green Administration Look Like?" (http://www.gp.org/first100)
For a comparison of mandate plans and Single-Payer , see "Talking Points: Why the mandate plans won't work, and why Single-Payer 'Medicare for All' is what we need" by Len Rodberg, PhD, published by Physicians for a National Health Program (http://www.pnhp.org/news/2008/december/talking_points_why_.php).
Green Party information page on Single-Payer: http://www.gp.org/organize/sicko.html
Meanwhile, the Green Party's 2008 presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney (World Can't Wait) explains why the Bush administration needs to be prosecuted and also notes:
One of the first underreported acts of President Obama was to sign an order continuing the drone airstrikes, resulting in at least 22 killed so far. For the dead children of Afghanistan or Pakistan or Gaza, it doesn't matter to their parents if the bomb was dropped by Bush or Obama or the client state they support. And President Obama has made it clear that the bombs will continue to drop; it is up to us--the people of the United States--to stop them. That's why it was on my birthday, in front of the Pentagon in 2007, that I declared my independence from every bomb dropped, every child killed, every veteran maimed in the name of U.S. wars. I said it, and I meant it, and I knew I was going to have to do something I'd never done before if I was ever going to have something I'd never had before. So I left the Democratic Party.
I don't regret my decision one minute. I draw my strength from Dr. King, who in his own way, did the same thing when he refused to segregate his moral concerns.
My neighborhood in Los Angeles, Watts and South Central, is already a police state. Tonight, 25 to 30 young black men, standing handcuffed, outside the barber shop. Every night, routine dehumanization is carried out in black and brown neighborhoods by LAPD. I see it. I never miss it. It's all around me.
Oscar Grant murdered in cold blood by law enforcement. Robert Tolan, shot in cold blood by law enforcement, for driving his father's car, mistaken for stolen.
Filiberto Ojeda Rios assassinated by the U.S. government; I met his wife and heard the entire story of what happened as he was shot by the FBI and then bled to death.
Innocent black and brown and poor white men on death row. How many Troy Davises and Mumia Abu Jamals will we allow to exist in our country?
Native Americans trying to survive despite genocide and ethnic cleansing, struggle against drug and alcohol abuse and poverty, and try to keep their culture alive.
And yet the likes of Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Nancy Pelosi, and now Barack Obama say nothing about the pain I see on the mean streets and reservations across our country, and the miscarriages of justice that are its regular feature, but they allow Bush and company to get away with the highest of crimes, involving millions of deaths.