Sunday, March 01, 2009

And the war drags on . . .

GIBSON: And, Senator Obama, your campaign manager, David Plouffe, said, "When he is" -- this is talking about you -- "When he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in 16 months at the most. There should be no confusion about that." So you'd give the same rock-hard pledge, that no matter what the military commanders said, you would give the order to bring them home?

OBAMA: Because the commander-in-chief sets the mission, Charlie. That's not the role of the generals. And one of the things that's been interesting about the president's approach lately has been to say, "Well, I'm just taking cues from General Petraeus." Well, the president sets the mission. The general and our troops carry out that mission. And, unfortunately, we have had a bad mission set by our civilian leadership, which our military has performed brilliantly. But it is time for us to set a strategy that is going to make the American people safer. Now, I will always listen to our commanders on the ground with respect to tactics, once I've given them a new mission, that we are going to proceed deliberately, in an orderly fashion, out of Iraq, and we are going to have our combat troops out. We will not have permanent bases there. Once I have provided that mission, if they come to me and want to adjust tactics, then I will certainly take their recommendations into consideration. But, ultimately, the buck stops with me as the commander-in-chief.

The above, noted in Ava and my "TV: Felons, Frauds and Fluff," is the exchange between ABC's Charlie Gibson and Barack Obama during the April 16, 2008 debate. Barack did promise to consult with military commanders . . . about how to implement the 16-month withdrawal but he did not promise to consult with them on the 16-month withdrawal. The 16-month withdrawal, as presented by Barack to the public, was the mission. As he explains above, the president sets the mission and the military carries it out. As he explains above, he was going to set the mission and would consult with them on how to best achieve the 16-month withdrawal. The buck stopped with him, Barack said. So he broke his promise or he lied to the American public, you take your pick. But stop the damn lying. And what does it say about our so-called working press that we keep hearing the lie, over and over, that Barack always said he would speak with the military commanders on the ground?

It was never a promise and Barack's a damn liar. Tom Hayden shows up in the Los Angeles Times today to whine about art funding. Yeah, like that's his area of expertise. Yeah, Tom-Tom who has been laying low for weeks, shows up after Barack BREAKS his campaign promise and Tom-Tom can't call him out on it. Now back in March, when the BBC aired the Samantha Power interview (taped when she was Barack's foreign policy advisor) and Sammy explained how Barack's campaign promise didn't matter and no one could hold him to it, Tom chose to ignore that and only suddenly 'discovered' it July 3rd when Barack was walking away from his promise. In a few months, Tom-Tom may 'discover' what Barack said in the April debate. The damn liars won't tell you the truth, they aren't capable of it. Constitutionally, it just isn't in them to tell the truth. And you need to remember that because that's why this country and the world are so screwed up: The truth is placed on hold for personal motives. It's not about equality for them, it's not about democracy, it's not about anything. They have no ethics, they have no standards. If there was violence in the streets of the US today, you can be sure Tom-Tom would be directing it. From the safe distance -- like Chicago 1969 (not 1968, 1969 was when he directed and participated) -- and being sure his hands don't get dirty. Tom will do whatever's 'fashionable' and it's damn shame that the truth is never 'in fashion.'

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4247 and tonight? 4253. Yesterday the US military announced: "AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq -- A Multi National Force -- West Marine died as the result of a non-combat related incident here Feb. 28." Just Foreign Policy's counter finally moved up three weeks ago (after no updates since January 4th) to 1,311,696 killed since the start of the illegal war and finally updating their counter was so much work, they needed to take two weeks off. Those are Tom-Tom's little friends, by the way. That shows you the level of commitment and the level of caring that crowd offers Iraq. Every three weeks, they may update their daily counter. When Bush was in the White House, they updated it daily. Bush leaves and their beloved Barack enters? They don't have the damn time for Iraq, too busy drooling over Barack to do their damn job. JFP is about to be pulled. We will not note it again. This is the second time since Barack won the election that they went weeks and weeks without updating. They tried to lie and claim that the slaughter of Gaza caused the January distraction. There's been no such slaughter this month. They'll have to find another lie. And starting tomorrow, you will see the counter disappear from every community site. We don't have time for the useless or the liars.

As the month draws to end we learn that while media interest in Iraq dropped, violence in Iraq increased. China's Xinhua explains, "Iraq's monthly civilian death toll in February rose slightly to a total of 258 from the previous month that showed the lowest level since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, authorities said on Sunday." These are figures which come from Iraq's ministries so these are low balled figures. We can't use 'Just' Foreign Policy to compare because they haven't updated their counter in three weeks. They're useless. AFP reports:

A total of 258 Iraqis were killed in violence in February, a sharp rise from the previous month that saw the lowest casualty figures since the 2003 US-led invasion, authorities said Sunday. Statistics compiled by the Defense, Interior and Health ministries showed that 211 civilians, 17 soldiers and 30 policemen lost their lives to violence across the country in February.
The death toll was up 35 percent on January's total of 191, which was the lowest figure since 2003. The latest casualty figures also showed that 456 civilians, 31 soldiers and 61 police were wounded in February.

Today's violence?

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) notes an Ifan village suicide bomber ("himself") killed himself and Mahmoud Khalid Ifan who was the son of Sheik Hassnawi and a Mosul roadside bombing that left three Iraqi soldiers injured. Reuters says the Ifan village bombing took place in Flluja and that the man killed was the cousin of the Sheik and they notee a Samarra roadside bombing which left the city's mayor, Mahmoud Khalaf, injured. Saturday Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy) reported a Baghdad roadside bombing that left two people wounded, another which left six people wounded (three were police officrs), a Baghdad car bombing which claimed the life of police officer Ahmed Ghazi and an unnamed civilian while nine people were left wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded one person and a Baquba bicycle bombing which wounded one person.

Gillian e-mailed wondering how long these take to write? In this case, I've pulled up everything on multiple pages on the laptop and while the above was written we're only at 31% on the Flickr upload. (Comics, we'll get to it.) She also wondered if I'd noticed the Iraqi Body Count continues to update while Just Foreign Policy doesn't and the IBC also -- though reporting on violence a day or two later -- also has a number of incidents McClatchy consistently misses? Yes, I did notice that over the last two weeks. IBC is an undercount and that's why we don't use them. But, that said, they're the only ones now counting. JFP has stopped. You can't do a daily count every three weeks. So we may be adding IBC on the links. If you have a major problem with that (and are a community member), please e-mail. When outlets began pulling out of Iraq, it was noted here that we were going to have to start using some outlets we normally wouldn't have. We have to use what we can.

The New York Times isn't being ignored, they just didn't file from Iraq in today's paper. Duluth News Tribune and AP report that despite claims to the contrary by the military last month, the two helicopters that crashed in January crashed due to "enemy fire" according to Fort Drum military authorities. The crashes took the lives of four US service members: Philip E. Windorski,
Matthew Kelley, Joshua Tillery and Benjamin Todd: "All were warrant officers in the 10th Mountain Division’s 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, married and had children.
Windorski had three children. A funeral for Windorski was held in Grand Rapids on Feb. 7. During the ceremony two military helicopters flew over."

In Iraq, Kim Gamel (AP) reports the January 31st provincial elections remain a sore spot (and can be appealed through March 9th with seating of the winners to take place March 24th) as approximately two-thousand demonstrated against the results in Diyala Province today. Gamel reports they were Shi'ites and claim fraud in the voting whose results or 'results' gave 15 seats to Sunnis, 6 to Kurds, 5 to Shi'ites and 3 to an unnamed "secular party."

Moving over to England where there are new developments following Sec of Defense John Hutton's announcement. Thursday, Hutton announced in the House of Commons:

During the final stages of the review of records of detentions, we found information about one case relating to a security operation that was conducted in February 2004, a period which honorable members I'm sure will recall saw an increased level of insurgent activity as the transfer to Iraqi sovereignty drew closer. During this operation, two individuals were captured by UK forces in and around Baghdad. They were transferred to US detention in accordance with normal practice and then moved subsequently to a US detention facility in Afghanistan. This information was brought to my attention on the first of December, 2008. And I instructed officials to investigate this case thoroughly and quickly so I could bring a full account to Parliament. Following consultations with US authorities we confirmed that they transferred these two individuals from Iraq to Afghanistan in 2004 and they remain in custody there today. I regret that it is now clear that inaccurate information on this particular issue has been given to the House by my department. I want to stress however that this was based upon the information available to ministers and those who were briefing them at the time. My predecessors as secretaries of state for defense have confirmed to me that they had no knowledge of these events. I have written to the honorable members concerned, correcting the record, and am placing a copy of these letters also in the library of the house. And again, Madame Deputy Speaker, I want to apologize to the House for these errors. The individuals transferred to Afghanistan are members of Laskar-e-Taiba, a proscribed organization with links to al Qaeda. The US government has explained to us that they were moved to Afghanistan because of a lack of relevant linguists necessary to interrogate them effectively in Iraq. The US has categorized them as unlawful enemy combatants and continues to review their status on a regular basis. We have been assured that the detainees are held in a humane, safe and secure environment meeting international standards which are consistent with cultural and religious norms and the International Committee of the Red Cross has had regular access to the detainees. A due diligence search by the US officials of the list of all those individuals captured by UK forces and transferred to US detention facilities in Iraq has confirmed that this was the only case in which individuals were subsequently transferred outside of Iraq. This review has established that officials were aware of this transfer in early 2004. It has also shown that brief references to this case were included in lengthy papers that went to then-Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary in April 2006. It is clear that the context provided did not highlight the significance at that point to my right honorable friends. In retrospect, it is clear to me that the transfer to Afghanistan of these two individuals should have been questioned at the time. We have discussed the issues surrounding this case with the US government and they have reassured us about their treatment but confirmed that, as they continue to represent significant security concerns, it is neither possible or desirable to transfer them to either their country of detention or their country of origin.

Today David Stringer (AP) reports that Alex Carlile, of the House of Lords, has declared that a fresh inquiry is needed and should be led by "a senior judge" and Stringer notes that Zachary Katznelson declared that his client Shaker Aamer, who was tortured at Baghram, states that this took place with "a member of the British security services . . . present in the room". Shaker remains imprisoned at Guantanamo, he is not the only prisoner to state British personnel were present during torture.

Returning to Barack's broken promises and the draw down, John Yaukey (Gannet via Honlulu Advertiser) reports that US House Rep Neil Abercrombie told CNN that US forces on the ground in Iraq need to "be leaving faster than President Obama has ordered" and the quote is, "I think it can be done faster." Yaukey observes, "Abercrombie's comments signal what could become a growing rift between some Democrats and Obama on policy in Iraq." Abercrombie also questioned Barack's claim that the 'surge' was a success stating, "we Bribed people. We paid people not to kill us." Abercrombie is not lying. He is not being inflamatory. He is repeating what US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and General David Petreaus repeatedly told Congress in the days of testimony back at the start of April. (Here, we called Petreaus and Crocker's 'logic' the fork-over-the-lunch-money-so-no-one-gets-beat-up policy.) On the same topic, Mark Johnson, Ryan Beckwith and Steven Thomma (McClatchy Newspapers) report on some of the Democrats speaking out including US House Rep Lynn Woolsey ("I am deeply troubled by the suggestion that a force of 50,000 troops could remain in Iraq. This is unacceptable.") and US House Rep Dennis Kucinich ("You cannot leave combat troops in a foreign country to conduct combat operations and call it the end of the war. You can't be in and out at the same time. We must bring a conclusion to this sorry chapter in American history."). Senator Russ Feingold is also quoted but that's the statment we quoted three times last week. Brave statements by those speaking out and highly appreciated but I don't think most people are getting that this isn't an 'orderly' draw down in that it's not X this month and X the next. We'll come back to that in a moment.

First up, others who want to stand up can join The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War for an action this month. From IVAW's announcement:

IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21stAs an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.)
To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately.For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: or

Now back to what I fear a lot of people are not grasping. I don't think they're grasping that until January of next year, until January 2010, no one's really leaving. Ava and I noted this from Friday's Washington Week:

Gwen Ifill: And then, Martha, we get to today, in which he goes to Camp Leujune and he says 'we are -- I'm going to keep another campaign promise. I said we were going to be out of Iraq in sixteen months, well, maybe eighteen months, and then he says --
Martha Raddatz: Or nineteen.
Gwen Ifill: Or nineteen. 50,000 troops are going to stay behind. But they'll be gone by 2011. Is any of this possilbe.
Martha Raddatz: I, well, I think first of all you've got to look at his language. Certainly, they're going to start the draw down. And what I've been told is in the next six months, they'll only have eight to ten thousand soldiers and Marines leaving Iraq. The bulk of the draw down that he promised will start in probably January and February and then you'll have 80,000 troops pulling out of Iraq from January to August. That would leave 50,000 trooops. The thing I would quibble with is they will no longer have combat missions. Look at what the mission will be. And General Ray Odierno sent a letter out to the troops today saying essentially their goals would be training Iraqi secruity forces, conducting coordinated counterterrorism mission and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. I don't really know how you do that without combat troops and frankly all of the US forces are trained combat troops.

Martha Raddatz, ABC News, is explaining that of the approximately 90,000 US troops people are expecting will be withdrawn in the next nineteen months, only as many as 10,000 will be withdrawn over the next nine months (ten if you count this month that just started). In other words, the big 'news' that has losers like Tom Hayden celebrating? There are approximatley 144,000 US troops in Iraq (142,000 is the more popular estimate, a friend at M-NF says use 144,000) and by December 31, 2009 -- under Barack's plan -- that number will drop to 134,000. That is the 'draw down' that people are jumping for joy over. That is ridiculous.

You can read more of that exchange here. And tomorrow afternoon Washington Week will have streaming and transcripts up at the program's website. And new content at Third . . .

Truest statement of the week
Truest statement of the week II
A note to our readers
Editorial: Wishin' And Hopin'
TV: Felons, Frauds and Fluff
More faux change from Barack Bargains and sexism offered
Crazy Ray LaHood? Not so crazy after all.
The Katrina goes to Phyllis Bennis
Liar-in-chief Barack
TV Spotlight: Washington Week
The Condi II
The Bronze Booby goes to . . . David Martin
Iraq roundtable

Tonight Kat's "Kat's Korner: The charity album that just takes" went up. Isaiah's latest comic goes up after this. This is one of three comics that will go up this week, one each morning, wrapping up on Tuesday and wrapping up the Al Distraction series. Pru highlights this from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

Labour's popularity goes totally zombie
The much vaunted "Brown bounce", which was supposed to see a revival of the prime minister’s fortunes, has flattened out leaving him looking like the living dead.
The Tories have now established a steady 12 percent lead in the polls, the latest of which shows that 63 percent of people believe Gordon Brown is dragging down Labour’s support. Meanwhile reports whisper of a renewed fight over who might succeed Brown.
Despite high ratings for the Tories, the right wing media are worried. The Economist magazine states that "the public are not keenly awaiting a Conservative government in the way they looked forward to Labour's election in 1997", while the Times newspaper says "confidence in the party is lacking".
This shows that voters trust neither of the two main parties over the economy. Volatility means voters can move sharply left or right. This explains the Nazi BNP’s success in securing a Kent council seat last week. They tapped into fears over jobs and exploited the poisonous "British jobs for British workers" slogan.
Now the Metropolitan Police warn that Britain faces a "summer of rage", predicting unrest over the recession could boil over. That can create the conditions in which the left can capture the popular mood. We need to ensure that happens.
© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.
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