Thursday, February 19, 2009. Chaos and violence continue,election results are released (yes, the results to January 31st elections), Iraq still has no Speaker of Parliament, the Kurds ask for the Constitution to be followed and the "Awakening" Council's cheif cheerleader rushes to tell the world violence is a'coming, Muntadhar al-Zeidi gets a day in court (one) and much more.
Starting with today's Most Needy (the intelligent deficient), little Eric Stoner, come on down. Eric was one of Katrina's coffee fetchers nearly three years ago and that task provides no on the job training. Now he 'works' at Aging Socialite's Cat Litter Box -- in fact, word is he has cleaning duties. Taking his recycled blog post and limited intelligence to the Labour Party's party organ (Guardian -- you can catch it at ZNet which we will link to), Stoner (was a last name ever more apt) babbles about Blackwater between the muchies. Like the gut over the belly young 'dude' he fancies himself, Stoner knows, just knows, where there are problems, there is a woman causing it all. So the Barack Cult Member whines that mercenaries are still in Iraq:
Hillary Clinton offerred a glimmer of hope when she endorsed this bill during her campaign for the presidency. But as Obama's secretary of state, she has quickly abandoned her commitment to "show these contractors the door."
Oh, that awful Hillary! Cursing her must give Stoner something to focus on while digging the sand and tar out from underneath Arianna's toe nails (or is that hooves?). Reality, Stoner, Hillary's 'glimmer of hope' was a bill she supported as a Senator. And she was slimed by Jeremy Scahill and others while your poster boy Barry got yet another pass. Did you forget that? Or just ignore it? Samantha Power pulled a charm offensive (yes, that is scary) and purred in Jeremy's ears and he felt so 'included' and couldn't shut up about his 'secret source,' his 'high level source.' It didn't matter that Our Modern Day Carrie Nation Sammy Power was telling him that Barack wouldn't support the bill, what mattered to Jeremy was attacking Hillary. So he hissed at her bill and he invented motives (some fed to him by Sammy) for Hillary. Anything to make Barry look better.
That was a Senate proposal. Barack didn't get on board. It died. Barack is the president. Hillary is the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State does not make policy -- she or he implements it. Is that too complex for you, Stoner? Translation, Barack didn't support Hillary's bill during the Democratic Party primaries and he doesn't support it now that he's president. If you're unhappy with that fact, the blame goes to Barry. Not to Hillary. The blame goes to Barry and all the Cult Members who lied and covered for him and continue to do so -- like you, Eric Stoner.
Feb. 13th, Blackwater made the news for changing its name to Xe -- in an attempt to run from their blood crimes. For those late to the party, Steve Grant (Comic Book Resources) provides this recap: "Remember Blackwater, the third-party army serving as mercena -- whoops, I mean 'civilian contractors' -- in Iraq for the occupation, as well as building private prisons and other interesting activities here in the States (no word on the future of those now that their government contracts are theoretically all dried up)? Blackwater is no more! It has 'rebranded itself' Xe, pronounced Z, apparently to shake off their war-built image as civilian-murdering thugs. As long as they're updating their image, they might want to rethink the busines cards printed with human blood, too..." The Fayetteville Observer makes a prediction, "The company does, after all, have an image problem -- thanks, among other things, to accusations that its employees were rampaging Dirty Harrys in Iraq, gunning down innocent civilians. We doubt that the public will quickly adopt Xe, any more than it has embraced Altria as the new name for Philip Morris." Al Arabiya quotes Blackwater spokesperson Anne Tyrell whining, "We were defined as a security company, we never were a security company. We offer a lot of other services. But Blackwater became synonymous with our security work." Nathan Hodge (Wired) reports the mercenary corporation has just completed another "round of layoffs". Name changes and layoffs don't wipe away the September 16, 2007 slaughter in Baghdad. Del Quentin Wilber (Washington Post) reported US District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina refused the motion to dismiss the charges against five Blackwater employees and notes, "The charges were brought under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000, which allows U.S. prosecutors to charge American service members, their family members and those employed by the military for illegal acts committed overseas." The Virginian-Pilot notes that the judge also dismissed the motion by the defense to move the trial to Utah.
From the criminal Blackwater to he-should-be-set-free Muntadhar. Muntadhar al-Zeidi garnered international attention for the events of December 14th. Then Bully Boy of the United States George W. Bush had traveled to Iraq for photo-ops with puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki as the two singed the Strategic Framework Agreement and the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement. Bully Boy was just declaring, "The war is not yet over -- but with the conclusion of these agreements and the courage of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi troops and American troops and civilian personnel, it is decisively on its way to being won" -- just declaring that when . . . it was as though someone cranked up Carly Simon's "De Bat (Fly In Me Face)" as one-shoe, two-shoe was hurled by the journalist who explained, "This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss you dog" and (with the second shoe) "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." Neither shoe hit Bully Boy and, apart from Nouri soiling his pants, neither man suffered physically. Bully Boy, in fact, was laughing, "Okay, everybody calm down for a minute. First of all thank you for apologizing on behalf of the Iraqi people. It doesn't bother me. And if you want some -- if you want the facts, it's a size 10 shoe that he threw." Bully Boy and everyone else had a good laugh -- everyone except Muntadhar who was being attacked by Nouri's thugs -- thugs who grabbed the moment to show the world what thugs they were and how the US installed strong man of Baghdad resorts to violence as they beat the journalist down. He was whisked away and only allowed one visit with his family and his attorney before this month -- and that visit only came about after the press covered the fact that he was being denied visits.
Today Muntadhar was in court. AP's Sinan Salaheddin quotes him declaring, "What made me do it was the humiliation Iraq has been subjected to due to the U.S. occupation and the murder of innocent people. I wanted to restore the pride of the Iraqis in any way possible, apart from using weapons." Tina Susman and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond) explain the hearing lasted 90 minutes, that there were three witnesses and that the trial is adjourned "until March 12". Jomana Karadsheh (CNN -- link has text and video) reported on the trial noting that Muntadhar declared, "I don't know what acomplishments he [Bush] was talking about. The accomplishments I could see were the more than 1 million martyrs and a sea of blood. There are more than 5 million Iraqi orphans because of the occupation. . . . More than a million widows and more than 3 million displaced because of the occupation."
Jomana Karadsheh: He was very calm and he spoke mainly about what motivated him to throw his shoes at former president Bush. What he said was,he was sitting throughout the press conference -- if you remember the incident happened at a press conference -- right after former president Bush finished speaking. And he said former president Bush was speaking about his accomplishments and victories in Iraq an al Zaidi said the 'accomplishments' for him, in his view, were the one-million widows in Iraq, the orphans, the martyrs and what he called violations committed against the Iraqi people. He referred to president Bush as the commander of the occupying forces here and this is what really, he says, like pushed him. He said "I could see the blood that was spilled in Iraq while he was speaking. He was justifying. He showed no remorse or regret for what was done. On the other hand he was trying to also explain that president Bush to him was not a guest of Iraq. He was saying "they are here, the US forces are in Iraq. They are an occupying force. So he does not see him as a visitor who should be -- who should be diginifed by Iraqis. As he was -- After the session ended -- for technical reasons basically -- the judge decided that they want to get more information from the prime minister's office on whether president Bush was here on an official or non-official visit.
Many of the reports are noting claims of torture taking place while Muntadher was in custody. Liz Sly (Chicago Tribune) gets specific explaining that silly statements (silly on the face) were introduced by the prosecution and Muntadher explained they were "untrue and had been extracted under torture including electric shocks." Register that and grasp that Iraq has a long history of torturing prisoners -- both before and after the start of the war. So when Samira Ahmed Jassim al-Azzawi is arrested by police on January 21st and February 3rd -- 13 days later -- the police suddenly wants to tell the world they arrested her and also offer a 'confession' she's made -- grasp that there's a good chance she made no 'confession' freely. (Late to the party? Feb. 3rd snapshot, Feb. 4th morning entry, Feb. 4th snapshot.) Originally, al-Azzawi allegedly recruited and trained the women. As the lurid details piled on, she was organizing the rapes of the female bombers. It was lurid, it was sleazy, it was unverifiable and it required more suspension of disbelief than any film that provides Clint Eastwood with a love interest under 60. Now why was that? And why was it necessary to paint the female bombers -- who had previously been portrayed as widows by Iraqi MPs -- as rape victims (which is 'shameful' for women in Iraq -- not for the rapists, just for the women)?
Thom Shanker (New York Times) explains the way it works. A young woman came forward -- this is the woman Leila Fadel covered non-stop (in what should have been the left's final clue as to how entwined with US military propaganda McClatchy was becoming) -- who had a story and the US military commanders "convened sessions with Iraqi politicians, activists and journalists" and, much to their surprise, they didn't have to pay for coverage or write it themselves (as they had in the past) because it was "the content" itself that was of interest. Col Darryl Williams explains, "We supplied suggestions, informations. But we had no control over editorial content." No, you were the source and a lot more than that because you had the counter-insurgency 'gurus' advising you -- a fact Shanker either was unaware of or preferred to avoid. Shanker does note that Williams "ran the division's unit that analyzed the effects of combt and noncombat operations" and maybe Shanker believes that passes for using the term "counter-insurgency"? Shanker tells you, "The Iraqi news media leapt on the story" -- well they did and so did Leila. Most outlets filed one story. Leila was writing stories, doing blog posts. She was a one woman Voice of America. Shanker informs that the US military wanted to use the fifteen-year-old girl "to spread the word that Rania and others appeared not to have been willing bombers and that the killing of innocent Iraqis could not be defended as an approved religious act. But they wanted to do so without American fingerprints that might undermine the message." Without American military fingerprints.
Which brings us back to al-Azzawi who was a societal nightmare with all of the allegations hurled at her. When a story seems too good to be true, it probably is. The Iraqis kept piling on lurid details -- a lot like they did when they pimped The Myth of the Great Return in late 2007. That started out with a very small group of Iraqis returning and, much to their surprise, it got press, positive press. From Saturday to Sunday evening, the same group had grown from 2,000 to 20,000 and was still growing the next day. That's your first tip that a story is false. When the 'facts' change that quickly in a matter of days, that's your first clue. Fortunately Damien Cave and Cara Buckley (New York Times) had the guts to report the truth and bury The Myth of the Great Return. And let's note that again: Damien Cave and Cara Buckley. They did so as November ended. For weeks, the myth was pimped and it was pimped by Big Media and Panhandle Media. We saw no bravery in our so-called 'independent' and 'alternative' media. Remember, The Nation didn't fight that myth, Amy Goodman didn't question it -- two reporters for the New York Times did.
Back to Muntadher and Liz Sly who describes the court scene: "Baghdad's Central Criminal Court, located inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, erupted in chants and cheers from Zaidi's relatives when he entered the room. His aunts and sisters ululated, and one of them thrust into Zaidi's hands an Iraqi flag, which he kissed and then draped around his shoulders." Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal's Baghdad Life) explains three judges presided over the case and al-Zaidi's lawyers are attempting to argue (one of many points) that Bush was not on an official visit to Iraq. NPR's Corey Flintoff (All Things Considered -- link has text and will have audio) adds of the attorneys, "Police added extra chairs behind the defense table to accomodate some 20 volunteer lawyers who wanted to be part of the defense team, which is led by the president of the Iraqi Bar Association." Ernesto Londono and Zaid Sabah (Washington Post) describe Muntadhar's court room appearance: "leather shoes, a pressed beige suit and a scarf emblazoned with the Iraq flag". And those who need to pretend there is a justice system in place in Iraq should skip the next part: Muntadar testified "from a wooden cage before a packed courtroom." From a wooden cage.
No justice, no democracy. Xinhua reports that the 'official' 'results' to the 14 provincial elections on January 31st were released today (Iraq has 18 provinces) by the Independent High Electoral Commission of Iraq (the group that responds to threats of violence by awarding votes to those who make the threats). Dalwat al-Qanun (State of Law -- proving Nouri al-Maliki does have a sense of humor -- who knew?) didn't do wonderful. In Baghdad, they won half the seats (28 of 57). Baghdad's the seat of al-Maliki's power. In Basra, Dalwat won 20 of the 36 seats. Missy Ryan, Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Jon Boyle (Reuters) report,"In the western desert province of Anbar, Sunni tribal chiefs who helped U.S. forces drive out Islamist militants like al Qaeda, and who had threatened to take up arms again if they did not win political power, got the most seats. It was a surprise after the tribal chiefs placed second in preliminary results. The tribal chiefs, with 8 out of 29 council seats, plan to form an alliance with a secular Sunni group." Yes, that was surprising. And completely unbelievable. Nouri al-Maliki was not a candidate in the race (though he did use his office in an unethical manner and did offer bribes for votes) but his party didn't do very well. They will have to form consensus governments with other parties in order to rule. That's not a majority. That's nothing. So Iraq remains lukewarm on al-Maliki. And you can remember that when you read Lyndon LaRouche proteges offering their garbage on the elections and the 'meaning' for Iraq -- 4 provinces haven't voted (and Dalwat is not expected to do well in any of the four) and, even in Baghdad, Dalwat limped along.
Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports signs of a war between Kurds and Arabs in Iraq -- information, no doubt, supplied to her by the "Awakeing" leaders she chums around with. UPI reports today on Nerchirvan Barzani's statements from days ago that the US should address the regional disputes (primarily oil-rich Kirkuk) before withdrawing (the US isn't going anywhere). (See Feb. 17th snapshot, when Prime Minister Barazani made the remarks, for more.) The issue of Kirkuk -- per Iraq's Constitution -- was supposed to have been addressed no later than December 31, 2007. Juan Cole of course cheerleaded the illegal war at various points -- and got snippy with CounterSpin when that cheerleading was pointed out. Always one to jump on a bandwagon (he has no clue what's going on in Iraq -- he's been focused on Palestine and he's not all that bright to begin with), Juan rushes to back up Leila with . . . well nothing. Juan, the news broke Tuesday. Trying to run with it today only yet again reveals how out of it you are. So do statements like, "If the Kurdish-Arab hostility rises further, the US could be drawn right back into Iraq." Uh, Juan, when did the US leave? Huh? We know when you lost interest, but when did US troops -- approximately 145,000 of them -- leave Iraq? (No link to garbage.) And PLEASE GET THIS, the Kurds ask for what is written in the Constitution and notice all the Nervous Nellies reaching for the vapors. Neither Leila nor Juan were at all alarmed when Anbar's Thug Sheik was threatening violence. But the Kurdish Regional Government pointing out that the Constitution needs to be followed is suddenly cause for an alarm. You'd think the KRG's Prime Minister had threatened violence the way Leila and Juan clutch the pearls. They really ought to be ashamed of themselves but neither is capable of shame (which is why they're such wonderful propagandists). Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) hat tips Juan and Leila -- Thomas, you're usually so much smarter. From his blog post:
Salon just carried an insightful review of my book that triggered a mudslide of nasty letters from the magazine's readers.
"If you enjoyed 'Fiasco,' thrilled to have your prejudices about the clueless Bush administration confirmed, it's your responsibility to read 'The Gamble' to have some prejudices challenged," wrote the reviewer, Joan Walsh, Salon's editor-in-chief. I think she really captured the ambivalence at the heart of the book, the sense that staying in Iraq is far from appealing, but may be the least worst choice available. Her review concludes that, "I still want troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. But reading this well-reported book may have changed even my notion of what that means."
The Gamble is a book worth reading -- the best on Iraq. A reader can learn a tremendous amount from the book and still disagree with some or all of Ricks' personal opinions. It's an important book. I may write about it tonight or in tomorrow's snapshot.
Waleed Ibrahim, Aseel Kami, Missy Ryan, Michael Christie and Victoria Main (Reuters) report that despite the lack of Speaker, they plan to tackle the 2009 budget next week. Yep, the 2009 budget. Yes, most countries have that place before the fiscal year starts let alone the calendar year. But, hey, Nouri's itty-bitty feelings get hurt when anyone points out the reality of how little 'progress' is being made so maybe we're all supposed to look the other way? The reporters inform, "Work on the budget, an important task as Iraq confronts sharply lower oil revenues at a time when it desperately needs funds to rebuild after six years of war, has been held up by parliament's inability to agree on a new speaker."
Reuters notes a Balad Ruz roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 4 Iraqi soldiers, a Garma roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer, a Mosul roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer, a Mosul roadside bombing that wounded one person, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left eight people injured, another Baghdad roadside bombing which left three people injured and a Mosul car bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer with seven people left injured. Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul suicide bomber who took his/her own life as well as the life of 1 police officer with seven more people wounded and a Falluja sticky bombing that claimed 2 lives (a "policeman's father and wife") and left 1 person (police officer) injured.
Reuters notes 1 shop owner shot dead in Mosul, 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Mosul and 1 man shot dead in Mosul (and his car stolen).
Turning to the United States, Sean Hannley (People's Weekly World Newspaper) reports on a February 15th teach-in at Howard University organized and sponsored by Latim American Solidarity Coalition, the North American Congress on Latin America, SOA Watch, CISPES, the Alliance for Globa Justice and others where Father Roy Bourgeois and others spoke. We'll note this section:
Professor Lesley Gill, the chair of the Department of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University, questioned whether or not we are likely to see much promised "change" from president Obama in Latin American policy. She pointed out that he has already begun hostile rhetoric towards Venezuela and promised to continue the Cuba embargo. She pointed out that the United States has been a destabilizing force in Latin America for decades; however, the Left is on the rise all over Latin America. Latin America has become more economically independent from the US, with the Bank of the South, UNASUR and access to new markets in Europe and China.
Argentina has begun to prosecute offenders from the "dirty war" and democratic governments throughout the region have started to deal with issues of inequity. She told the audience that Bush's response to this was aggressive. He responded with more intervention in the region: supporting coups in Haiti and Venezuela, viewing people in Latin America as a security threat, and continuing "Plan Colombia", a program which has the stated purpose to combat drugs, but ends up funneling money to paramilitaries. These paramilitaries make alliances with drug lords, murder civilians and burn through the country side.
She told the group how private security forces (such as Blackwater, one of the groups under investigation for crimes in Iraq) have been used in Colombia. These groups have no accountability for murder and human rights violations and have become the "[US] empire's paramilitaries" in the region. She told the crowd how Obama needs to be "pushed from below" in order to address problems such as our "divide and conquer" strategy in the region and to accept the center-left governments which have come to power in the region. She told the audience that US policies, namely agricultural "dumping" (where subsidized US crops destroy a country's agricultural base) create huge unemployment, which forces people to become migrant workers or drug traffickers.
She made note that Obama is one of the historical revisionists who claim that US torture began after 9/11 when, in fact, the US has always employed torture. She said his anti-torture policies, while a step in the right direction, do not address the other countries we have trained in torture including Colombia and Israel.
The 'post-racial' 'peace' movement sold its soul and also the lives of people in Afghanistan, Africa, Iraq and Latin America. That's the reality. Leslie Cagan, you're United For Death and Destruction and don't think you can waltz your way out of this one.