Monday, March 09, 2009

6,000 US soldiers vanish in Iraq!

February was not the lowest month for violence in Iraq according to statistics released by al-Maliki's government -- it was the second lowest. January was the lowest and February saw a 35% increase from January. Marc Santora misses that in "Suicide Attack Kills 28 in Baghdad" (New York Times) but otherwise nails the bulk of the remainder. For example, the 12,000 US troops? This is how Santora reports on it:

Maj. Gen. David G. Perkins, chief spokesman for the American forces in Iraq, told reporters on Sunday that over the next six months, the total number of troops in Iraq, currently 140,000, would be reduced by 12,000.

That's what Perkins said. But can someone explain the numbers? 140,000? That's not what's been reported. There are thought to be 146,000 US troops on the ground in Iraq and the White House has been pushing the press to use 142,000 as the figure since Barack's Little Big Nothing Speech at Camp Lejune. Before that speech, ten days before, Julian E. Barnes and Greg Miller (Los Angeles Times) reported: "There are about 146,000 U.S. troops in Iraq." That's February 18th. The White House is pleased as punch that the domestic press immediately fell into line and began using 142,000. It's unclear whether the White House pushed or the US military decided on its own to begin using 140,000.

But that's amazing. That's 6,000 US troops out of Iraq! Since Feb. 18th! Golly, if we just make the numbers whatever we want them to be, we can assert that there are NO US troops in Iraq.

That was the point we were making Saturday, about Steven Lee Myers' use of 142,000. And now the same paper is using 140,000.

If that doesn't bother you, try checking out Anthony Shadid's (Washington Post) article which includes:

Under the administration's plan, major reductions in the more than 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq would be postponed until after elections scheduled for December to choose a new parliament, a vote that nearly everyone in the country sees as a potential watershed moment. A U.S.-Iraqi agreement negotiated last year requires all U.S. troops to depart by the end of 2011, a deadline that Iraqi officials reiterated Sunday. "The Iraqi government has no intention to accept the presence of any foreign troops or bases after 2011," said Ali al-Dabbagh, a government spokesman.

More than 130,000 US troops? Does he mean after the 12,000 leave? Let's hope. But it's written in such a way that a reader doesn't know especially at a time when the press eagerly licks the boots of White House and shaves off troop numbers. When will it stop? That depends upon when people start noticing and objecting.

On the draw down, Iraq Veterans Against the War have issued "IVAW Wants to See Obama Call for a Complete Withdrawal from Iraq:"

As an organization of Global War on Terror veterans and Active Duty service members, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is pleased that President Obama is taking important steps to bring our fellow service members home. However, his plan to slowly remove combat brigades over the next 18 months and leave a remaining 35-50,000 troops throughout 2011 is a plan for almost three more years of an unjustified military occupation that continues to claim the lives and livelihoods of our troops and innocent Iraqis.
President Obama speaks of a change in mission, from a combat role to a support role, but yet still leaves room for “conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions” with a portion of the transitional forces remaining combat-ready. He also does not include a timeline for removing the more than 150,000 private defense contractors and mercenaries still in Iraq, nor does he address the question of disallowing permanent military bases.
His plan is also coming at a time when 17,000 more troops are being deployed to Afghanistan. He says he understands service members have "[born] the heaviest burden," but how is he alleviating that burden by removing troops from Iraq only to ask them to fight in an escalating occupation in Afghanistan? The longer that both of these occupations continue, the more difficult it will be to meet the needs of our returning veterans who are already suffering from inadequate care and a lack of resources.


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's diplomatic mission to the MidEast and Europe continued over the weekend. Saturday found her in Turkey and the US State Dept issued "Press Releases: Joint Statement by Turkey and the United States of America on the Occasion of the Visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Upon the Invitation of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey Ali Babacan" on Saturday:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan today reaffirmed the strong bonds of alliance, solidarity and strategic partnership between the Republic of Turkey and the United States, as well as the commitment of both countries to the principles of peace, democracy, freedom, and prosperity enshrined in the Shared Vision and Structured Dialogue document agreed to in July 2006.
Turkey and the United States reiterated their determination to continue close cooperation and consultation on all issues of common concern. They pledge to contribute to peace and stability in the Middle East and in this context, to support a permanent settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, including alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a two-state solution; to enhance energy security and to expand the Southern corridor of natural gas and oil infrastructure to enable Caspian basin and Iraqi energy producers to reach European and world markets; to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the south Caucasus, including through U.S. support for the efforts of Turkey and Armenia to normalize relations and joint support for the efforts of the Minsk Group to resolve the Nagorno Karabakh conflict; to continue to cooperate in the Balkans; to support strongly a comprehensive and mutually-acceptable settlement of the Cyprus question under the auspices of the UN and in this context ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots; and to enhance their cooperation in the fight against terrorism, particularly against their common enemies, the PKK and al-Qaeda. The United States will continue its intelligence support for Turkish operations against the PKK and is reviewing ways to be more supportive. As members of the G-20, Turkey and the United States pledge continued cooperation to deal with the global economic crisis and efforts to increase and diversify bilateral economic relations with particular emphasis on trade, investment, scientific and technological cooperation.
Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Babacan discussed Turkey’s accession to the European Union as a member, a goal the United States continues to strongly support, as well as the Government of Turkey’s continued emphasis on reform process. With their commitment to Transatlantic relations and as Allies in a strong NATO, they pledge continued cooperation in Afghanistan, including through continued Turkish contributions to Afghanistan. They reiterated their commitment to the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq as well as reiterated their support for a democratic, pluralistic, unified and federal Iraq. They also welcome Turkey’s deepening relations with the Government of Iraq as evidenced by high level visits as well as trilateral meetings to discuss cooperation against the PKK. Turkey and the United States will strongly back the United Nations Security Council in its work to maintain global peace and security for the prevention and removal of threats to the international community and in this context will cooperate in dealing with issues including terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime and the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery in the region and beyond.
Finally, they reaffirmed their determination to diversify the broad based bilateral relations particularly between the Turkish and American people. In that context, the Secretary and Minister announced the establishment of “Young Turkey/Young America: A New Relationship for a New Age.” This initiative will enable emerging young leaders in Turkey and the United States to develop initiatives that will positively impact people's lives and invest in future ties between the leadership of our two countries.

Yigal Schleifer's "Turkey warms to Clinton's candor" (Christian Science Monitor) reports on Hillary's trip to Turkey:

Stagecraft appears to have helped Secretary of State Hillary Clinton score a few points for America's battered reputation here.
In a departure from her busy agenda of traditional diplomacy, Secretary Clinton sat down for a Saturday interview on a popular television talk show, opening up on prime time about everything from how she fell in love to her challenged sense of fashion.
Asked by one of the hosts how she has dealt with life's difficulties -- including much-publicized bumps in her marriage -- Clinton answered: "You know, family, faith, friends are the core of my life and I don't know anybody whose life is smooth sailing."
Clinton and Turkish officials had significant issues to discuss during her one-day visit to the Turkish capital of Ankara, including the possible use of Turkish soil for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and her announcement that President Obama will make his own trip to Turkey in the next month.
But Clinton also had another mission: to resurrect America's shabby image in Turkey, where, according to a 2007 public opinion survey, only nine percent of the population held favorable views of the US, down from 52 percent in 2002.

Today Alsumaria reports that the Turkish military is whispering about a reported deal between Baghdad and Ankara which will allow Turkey to train the Iraqi Army. Reported the deal was addressed on Wednesday and will be signed by President Abdula Gul when he visits Baghdad at the end of this month.

Saturday morning
we linked to a Xinhau article on Hillary's visit after which I noted this: "And Barack will reportedly visit Turkey in the next few weeks." Leading to an angry e-mail insisting Xinhau didn't say that (I never said it did, that's my comment look at the entry) and that I was making it up and doing so to suggest that Barack "is a slacker! He is working on the economy. You need to stop lying!" Oh, how we love the drive-bys. Barack is going to Turkey. I didn't have a publication to link to because I'd heard from friends in the administration and was told I could mention it on the weekend if I wanted. We were discussing Hillary's visit and Barack's visit (which was already whispered about) was not a secret. But for the drive-by, Tim Reid and Michael Evans (Times of London) report this morning, "The White House also announced that Mr Obama will travel to Turkey next month, making good on another campaign promise to give a speech in a Muslim country."

The Kurdistan Regional Government announced the following Sunday:

Kurdistan Region delegation meets Lebanese Prime Minister

» Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir gives Prime Minister Siniora a Kurdistan photographic history book
Beirut, Lebanon ( -- A delegation from the Kurdistan Region, on the invitation of the Lebanese-Kurdistan Friendship Association, conducted a four-day visit to Lebanon to further strengthen the close relations between the two countries.

The delegation was received by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and met Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh, Agriculture Minister Elias Skaff, Culture Minister Tamam Salam, Economy and Trade Minister Mohammad al-Safadi, and Tourism Minister Elie Marouni. They also met Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir and held several meetings with members of the business community.

The delegation included businessmen, Contractors Union representatives, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Minister of Tourism Nimrud Baito and the Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir.

The Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture of Beirut and Mt. Lebanon signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kurdistan Region Chambers of Commerce and Industry to further economic cooperation.

Minister Baito said, "There is a great deal that we can learn from Lebanon. Tourism requires expertise in hospitality and the preservation of historical sites, and cooperation with Lebanon is most welcome in this regard." He added, "As a legitimate entity within federal Iraq, our cooperation with Lebanon and its institutions is guaranteed by the Iraqi Constitution."

The visit comes as part of Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani’s policy to develop strong ties with the international community, including with neighbours and the nations of the Arab world.

Minister Bakir said, "Lebanon is the second largest investor in our Region. They are active in a variety of fields, from trade to education to banking, and have a renowned history of professionalism."

He added, "As our economic cooperation continues to grow, I hope Lebanon and other Arab states engage further with the Kurdistan Region as a gateway to the rest of Iraq. Finally, I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Lebanese-Kurdistan Friendship Association for their hard work in arranging this visit."

Both sides expressed interest at the possibility of establishing a Lebanese diplomatic office in Erbil to facilitate commercial cooperation and support Lebanese nationals working in the Kurdistan Region.

The Kurdistan Region delegation highlighted their difficult history and the struggle for democracy, as well as their role in promoting a federal, pluralistic Iraq in cooperation with fellow Iraqis. The leadership of the Kurdistan Region chose to remain a part of Iraq, and has stressed dialogue, tolerance and peaceful coexistence among Arabs and Kurds as a key goal. The Kurdistan Region has been active in supporting refugees from the South and serving as a safe haven for those fleeing sectarian violence, especially Christians, and those who had struggled during drought seasons in the past.

Lebanon's ministers were enthusiastic regarding the potential for the development of increased commercial and economic ties, training programmes, legislative assistance, and the exchange of experiences. The Kurdistan Region delegation invited Lebanese officials to visit the Kurdistan Region, and both sides were eager to move forward to explore further opportunities and future visits.

Adam Kokesh (Revolutionary Patriot) has been busy in New Hampshire and has a post about that which includes video and text. His post opens with:

Not only is there an IVAW member here (James Schmill) enjoying the lack of laws prohibiting open-carry in the state of New Hampshire at the Liberty Forum, we also scored some free press for IVAW at the Wilson Hill Pistol Club! (more photos on facebook here)

And Bonnie reminds that Kat's "Kat's Korner: No Life Left On The Album" went up Sunday as did Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Feminist Barack."

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