Thursday, February 05, 2009

Suicide bomber kills at least 15 in Iraq

Peter Graff, Waleed Ibrahim, Mohammed Abbas, Michael Christie and Charles Dick (Reuters) report "the bloodiest attck in Iraq in weeks," at least 15 dead in Diyala Province from a suicide bomber. No word on the gender of the bomber, so it's most likely a male. Remember that, gender of the bomber is only 'news' when it's a woman. And then it's time to work overtime with lurid fantasies. If you thought the nonsense was bad Tuesday (see that day's snapshot for examples) or yesterday (see yesterday morning's second entry), you just didn't know where it was headed. The 'mastermind' recruiting those women to be suicide bombers? The women weren't just women, they were . . . rape victims! Germany's Welt Online offers the eye rolling "Mother of the Female Suicide Bombers' speaks out." Remember, when a woman's a suicide bomber, there's some sort of 'sickness' involved that must be studied. When it's a man, no one raises an eyebrow. As usual, when it's lurid, Family Security Matters is all over it! Rape! Bombs! Women! Death! You get the feeling they needed a whole pack of cigarettes after they came down.

Meanwhile Leo Shane III (Stars and Stripes) reports:

Ongoing combat operations overseas could cost the United States more than $860 billion over the next 10 years, further ballooning the defense budget, experts told Congress on Wednesday.
That total includes plans to dramatically draw down the number of troops in Iraq in the next few years, according to officials from the Congressional Budget Office.
Even with reducing the number of deployed combat troops to 75,000 worldwide, the CBO estimates that the Defense Department faces recurring personnel costs of at least $69 billion a year, coupled with other equipment repair costs.

And remember, as Senator Barbara Boxer noted in an April hearing, all the money spent, all the lives lost, and the best that can ever be said is 'fragile gains' were made.

Townhall II

QUESTION: Good afternoon, Madame Secretary. It's an honor to be working under your leadership, and I look forward to the challenges that you present. My name is Stephanie Ortoleva. I work in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
I basically wanted to ask you a question about what do you think can be the role that we can play, which you've illuminated -- you've given us a little bit of illumination on that -- but also what role can our colleagues who work in women's rights organizations and disability rights organizations, what role can those colleagues play in supporting you in your efforts to advance the rights of women and the rights of people with disabilities as part of an integral part of United States foreign policy?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That's a wonderful question. I thank you for it. You know, I think it was 1997, I came to this auditorium, the Dean Acheson Auditorium, with Madeleine Albright, who was Secretary of State, and addressed a large crowd like this about the commitment that the Clinton Administration had to including women as an integral part of foreign policy, not as an afterthought, not as an adjunct, but in recognition of the fact that we know from a myriad of studies and research that the role of women is directly related to democracy and human rights. And I feel similarly about people with disabilities.
It's important to recognize that expanding the circle of opportunity and increasing the democratic potential of our own society, as well as those across the world, is a continuing process of inclusion. And I look forward to working on behalf of the rights of women and people with disabilities, and others as well, as we pursue our foreign policy. Because I think it sends a clear message about who we are as a people, the evolution that we have undergone.
I remember as First Lady traveling to many countries that had no recognition of the rights of people with disabilities. They were literally warehoused, often in the most horrific conditions. There were no laws. There were no requirements for education or access. And it struck me then and -- we've made some progress, but insufficient. It certainly is part of my feeling now that we have to always be hoping and working toward greater inclusion as a key part of what our values are and what we believe democracy represents. So I'm going to look to working with those of you in the Department and at USAID and with our allies and friends outside who have carried on this work over the years. And you can count on my commitment to you on that.

That's the opening exchange during yesterday's State Dept townhall that Sec of State Hillary Clinton held. That was a great opening issue to raise, Stephanie Ortoleva topic, so of course the New York Times skips it.

Mark Lander's "Clinton Tries to Reassure a State Dept. in Transition" is the usual garbage from the New York Times. What's especially cute is now they want to talk about problems in the State Dept -- now? They name Condi. Condi was not perfect to put it mildly but she was an improvement over Colin Powell whom the paper has refused to call out -- I'm referring to their role as Sec of State in terms of being the head of the department and responsible for those under them.

Condi didn't realize how badly Powell destroyed morale -- no surprise there, he was a military man who whored himself out to military desires while serving as Sec of State, it was very obvious to career diplomats that he had little respect for or interest in diplomacy. When this was repeatedly made clear to her, she did attempt to improve it but she was in her final year at that point (and I believe she was three months into her final year when she finally registered the problem -- I could have the month wrong, I'd have to sit and reference her trips abroad to pin down that period and I don't have time to reflect on that this morning).

I have many friends at State -- career diplomats -- and we hit hard here on that repeatedly for that reason. When Condi, for example, went to Baghdad and gave a speech to State Dept employees extolling the sacrifice being made by the US military and never acknowledging the sacrifices made by the State Dept staff in Iraq, it outraged to such a volume that even she had to register it.

Because she's a woman and because Colin Powell's always dished to the press (he is their favorite gossip, he trashes everyone and does so off the record and they repay him by praising him and, frequently, running praise of him . . . from him but uncredited) and been a press 'hero,' Condi will take the fall. I can't control that but I will make it clear here that Condi, as an administrator, was not the failure Colin Powell was. And had she grasped sooner the damage he'd done in his four years in the job, she might have been able to turn it around. As it was, people did notice a change in her final year. But they were treated like garbage under Powell. He was not suited for the job and he performed it poorly. Condi's biggest problem was not grasping the situation -- wow, imagine that, no-one-could-have-guessed Condi failing to grasp a situation! -- but once she finally did, she did make some small improvements. Colin destroyed morale and created one of the largest flights from the State Dept in decades. But the New York Times wants to tell you Condi's the problem? They've never called out Colin but they want to bring up Condi?

And let's not pretend we don't grasp that the paper is attempting to set up a cat fight -- similar to Scott Horton's piggish nonsense. Look, it's Fatal Attraction! How long before everyone starts chanting, "Kill the b**ch! Kill the b**ch!"?

Marcia's written about the State Dept issues in "Hillary's First Day as Secretary of State."

You can read the transcript of the townhall here. And we'll note this section on Iraq:

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I'm Steve Kashkett, representing the American Foreign Service Association. As you know, over the past six years, thousands of our colleagues have volunteered to serve in the two war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan – Iraq in particular, where we've created the largest U.S. diplomatic mission in history. But the cost of doing this has been to take people away from all of our other diplomatic missions around the world, which have been left understaffed and with staffing gaps.
So my question to you is two parts. How do you assess the prospect of getting Congress to authorize the positions we need to fill all those staffing gaps around the world? And secondly, have you had any discussions yet about reducing the size of our diplomatic mission in Iraq down to that of a normal diplomatic mission?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Steve, I am fully in favor of increasing our diplomatic numbers, and we’re going to work very hard to achieve that. We are facing, unfortunately, some very difficult budgetary restraints. But I have made the enhancement of State operations, including Foreign Service and Civil Service positions, the highest priority. We cannot do the work we are expected to do in the absence of the people and the support systems that enable us to do the work. And I intend to make that argument every time I speak to anyone, and I have been making that argument. And it's too early to tell exactly where we're going to end up on the numbers and the dollars that we’re going to need. But it is an incredibly critical priority. I know that during his campaign, President Obama talked about this and I know how strongly supportive he is.
We are just beginning the discussions about Iraq. You know we have the Strategic Framework that was part of the agreements reached along with the Status of Forces Agreement that will, to some extent, guide us. We have elections in Iraq. We did the provincial, we'll have national elections. Much of it's going to depend, in terms of the numbers that we have remaining in Iraq on the civilian side, what the expectations of the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi people are. You know, they are a sovereign nation. We have certainly put forth in the Strategic Framework, and in the conversations that I've had with Iraqi leaders since arriving, a willingness to work on a range of issues on the civilian side. But we're just at the very beginning of that process.

And we'll note this which the Times also ignored:

QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary, and thank you for coming to address us today. My name is Ralan Hill. I'm a Foreign Service officer. I am here in Washington on TDY, going to Paraguay. I have a same-sex partner, who's been recognized as a member of household by the Department of State. Because of that, the Department actively discriminates against me and my family in a number of areas by limiting our access to benefits routinely and customarily provided to other families here in the Department. As one example, if I were assigned overseas to a post that came under a mandatory evacuation order, I would be required to leave, although the Department is under no legal obligation to do anything to help my partner. He could be left literally to fend for himself in a war zone.
While I hope you find the current situation unacceptable, my question is what can you do to eliminate this discrimination, and what timeline do you see for making such changes? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you for raising that. (Applause.) You know, this is an issue of real concern to me. And even though, as you pointed out, all of our personnel share the same service requirements, the partners in same-sex relationships are not offered the same training, the same benefits, and the same protections that other family members receive when you serve abroad. So I view this as an issue of workplace fairness, employee retention, and the safety and effectiveness of our embassy communities worldwide.
So I have asked for a staff review of current policies, especially those that are set forth in State Department regulations, and recommendations and a strategy for making effective changes. This is on a -- it's on a fast timeline, but we've begun that process. We are reviewing what would need to be changed, what we can legally change. A lot of things we cannot legally change by a decision in the State Department. But let's see what we can determine is within our realm of responsibility, and we are moving on that expeditiously.

There's a lot more in the transcript but when you're mission is to trash Hillary and to set up a catfight between two women (Hillary and Condi), you really don't have time to report so things that readers would actually be interested in, things they would be able to relate to get ditched to make more room for slurs and whispers.

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