Friday, March 13, 2009

Iraq roundtable

Rebecca: This is our fourth Iraq roundtable and we're doing this in the lead up to the sixth anniversary of the start of the illegal war.  Participating tonight are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ava,  me, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Trina of Trina's Kitchen, Wally of The Daily Jot, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ and Ruth of Ruth's Report. Betty and Cedric join us by phone.  The rest of us are at Trina's.  Okay, we're going to start with a video noted in today's snapshot.  C.I. provides a transcript of it and you can watch it at Adam Kokesh's website.  In it, a foul mouthed member of the US military curses and screams vulgarities at Iraqi police officers.  Let's start with Cedric.
Cedric:  Can you believe it?  The way he talks to them.  The transcript, reading it is bad enough, but to hear the scorn and abuse he's screaming at them with?  These aren't soldiers under his command, these are supposed to be the Iraqi police.  If you need any more reason why the US needs to leave now, just watch that video and see the contempt, scorn and anger that the US military is treating Iraqi police officers with.  If that's the 'respect' the police get, can you imagine how they talk to the average Iraqi?
Wally: Absolutely.  His little tantrum did nothing but make people mad.  Those police officers may not have grasped -- even with the translator -- everything that was being said but they could grasp the tone.  They could tell they were being talked to like they were a pack of wild dogs.  And don't forget the high ranking ones.  He spoke to their leaders like that. You see some foreigner insult your police commander, how much respect do you have for him?  None at all. 
Marcia: And let's not forget what he's saying beyond cursing them, beyond barking out insults and threats, he's also talking to them about their 'duties,' about what they need to do.  Go bust up this and beat up that.  Does that damn idiot know the first thing about the police?  Can you imagine with this kind of 'training' what it's going to be like for Iraqis living under such a 'police' force.  That is why you do not let a military train a civilian police.  This is disgusting.  There is no non-combat role for the US military in Iraq.  Barack can lie all he wants but he has seen this damn video?
Ruth: I was thinking the same thing as Marcia.  The US service member has no idea what he is talking about.  That may be due to people higher than him in the command but he is not telling them to do police work, he is telling them to do military work.  They are civilian police officers and it is frightening to think of what could happen on down the line because of their 'training.'
Elaine: And while these are all important points, I want to bring up the criticique C.I. offered because I firmly believe in that.  The 'barker' is telling the Iraqis that they are "women" and refering to them with slang for a vagina.  Talk about reinforcing negative images about women -- and in a region where women are already struggling for basic rights and dignities.
Ava: Agreed.  Last week,  Amnesty International's released [PDF format warning]  "Trapped By Violence: Women In Iraq." This week, Oxfam International released "In Her Own Words: Iraqi women talka bout their greatest concerns and challenges."  And here's the thing, while the reports are appreciated and much work went into producing them, you didn't need reports to know things were bad for Iraqi women.  How dare that prick use sexist language in a society where misogyny is the norm?  That is disgusting and that is not, that is not what people believe the US is doing in Iraq.
Kat: Did he know he was being taped?  The US military man?  Did he know?  I don't see how he couldn't have known and yet he felt no need to curb his sexism or to consider that a police force does not have the same duties as the military. 
Trina: These are all good points and they all go to the damage the US does by remaining in Iraq which was the point Cedric made at the start.  The US needs to leave Iraq.  Not a year from now or two years or seven years but right now.  And the idea that this is what is being done over there, the idea that we're turning a police force into a military with no respect for the law, that we're encouraging Iraqi men to further despise Iraqi women, all of this just means the US needs to withdraw now.  Right now. 
Rebecca: Let me do the PSA here.  The sixth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War is coming up.  Groups such as The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War -- are taking part in an action this month. Iraq Veterans Against the War explains:

IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21st 
As 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  

Rebecca (Con't): So that's coming up and Stan didn't speak in the previous discussion so I'm going to start with him.  Muntadhar al-Zeidi was another topic.  He is the Iraqi journalist who threw two shoes at Bully Boy Bush December 14thThursday, he was sentenced to three years in prison.  His attorneys state they will appeal.  Stan, your thoughts?
Stan: This was the easy story.  This was the story that allowed all the jerks online to pretend like they give a damn about the Iraq War.  The losers at Corrente and all the rest.  They'd post the video.  They'd make their not funny at all jokes and then they'd go back to boring us all with their half-baked posts about topics like Barbie, women's upper arms, etc. Think about these websites with multiple-posts each day and how Iraq is never a topic.  But they see video of Muntadhar tossing a shoe and they'll pretend like they give a damn. 
Marcia: I would agree with that.  Danny Schechter ignores Iraq every day and wastes everyone's time with nut jobs like Sam Smith.  And he quotes the nut job, for example, Thursday, staing that the press was in the tank for Bill Clinton.  That alone is revealing of what a fraud and an idiot Sam Smith is.  But what does it say about Danny Schechter who quotes him and quotes him at the same time he's quoting Robert Parry saying just the opposite.  It's like Schechter doesn't even read his own garbage.  Not that I'd blame him for that.  But he ignored Iraq all week and then showed up Friday with a few lines on Muntadhar.  My cousin, Stan, he's exactly right.  This is the do-nothing topic that allows all the do-nothings to gas bag.  There were two major reports released in the last 14 days, Ava noted them earlier, but the likes of Danny Schechter can't write about those things.  Two studies, from organizations recognized around the world.  But that gets a pass.  Still there's always time for easy topics.
Betty: I would agree with that and Stan and Marcia have each named one site but we could name many, many more.  I am so sick of the apathy online.  I'm so sick of the people like Danny Schechter who want to act like the world is over.  I'll be kind and not name another person but another site had time to talk about Tibet this week.  Free Tibet.  Free Tibet?  You're in the United States and you can't type a damn word about the Iraq War but you want to tell us Free Tibet?  Tell you what, sport, I'll buy you a gun, I'll even buy you bullets, and you take your little candy ass on over to China and you make it happen.  Go free Tibet.  Can anyone think of a less important issue?  That's a Richard Gere issue.  That's an issue for a man who takes out an ad to say he's not gay, he's happily married and then divorce the woman a few weeks later.  It's such celebrity issue.   How about you grow up and you start using your space at least once a week to call for your own country to end an illegal war that it started.  Or are you just so chicken that you prefer to call out China because it's scary to call out your own country?
Wally: I think part of it is that it requires some work.  More work than a lot of people want to put in.  They can't dabble with Iraq without looking like an idiot -- as so many dabblers demonstrate.  It's just too much work for them.  They'd rather jaw bone about an economy they do not understand and they embarrass themselves so much. 
C.I.: Wally's an economics major. 
Wally: Yeah, so when they start their gas baggery and quickly reveal that they don't know what they're talking about, I just laugh at them.  You've got people who've done the real work like Trina and then you've got these people who think if they throw enough unconnected terms and enough words out there, someone's going to be convinced they know what they're talking about.  And, let's face it, there are no leaders in Panhandle Media.  Big Media's talking about the economy, oh, they better talk about it too!  They can't lead.  If they could lead, the pullout of Iraq by Western media wouldn't be so frightening.  But Panhandle Media is incapable of leading.
Mike: Agreed.  And they've never cared about Iraq.  Amy Goodman and the rest, they wanted to grandstand on the topic, they just didn't want to do any work on it.  And when it gets attention from big media, they'll rush back to the topic and act like they've been covering it all the time.  We've seen this little act for years now and it's so old.
Kat: And we hit the six year mark next week.  Six years and not one show on Pacifica was ever created to cover the Iraq War.  That tells how damn little it matters.  We have had two Pacifica shows in 2004 on elections and at least three shows started in 2008 to cover the elections.  But we can't get a show for the Iraq War.  And as Mike said, their little pretend to care about Iraq act has gotten old. 
Rebecca: Okay, a new topic.  C.I. slid this over to me.  Stars and Stripes notes there are reports emerging that the US shot down an Iranian drone flying over Iraq in February.  Any thoughts?
Ruth: This is the first I'm hearing of it and, if it is true, my first question would be why that is?  Seems to me the public should have known about this last month if it was true.  The Iraq War is not supposed to be hidden from the public.  A drone shot down would be news that the public should have.  What is the purpose in hiding that?  The fact that it was hidden makes me think that it is a false story.
Betty: I would agree with Ruth on that.  How many times have we heard, "Iran's causing trouble!  Iran's training fighters! Iran's supplying weapons!"  Over and over.  And now we're supposed to believe that the US has information and has sat on it for a month?  I don't buy it.  I'm with Ruth.  And, excuse me, C.I. didn't they brag about their drone capabilities last month?  The military.
C.I.: The US military did brag about a drone.  A US drone was used as an assault weapon on February 23rd, the US military announced it March 2nd, it was in the March 3rd snapshot.  It was an "unmanned drone" and it shot off a missile.  It killed some people and the US military was thrilled and issued their announcement.  That was seven days later. 
Elaine: So seven days to announce 'good news.'  Certainly, as Betty pointed out, past remarks by the US military would indicate they would see an Iranian drone as "good news."  If seven days is the standard to announce good news, we should have heard of an Iranian drone no later than March 7th, right?
Kat: Right.  If not sooner.  Because they could argue that in the first case, "National security! We must not let the 'enemies' know about our capabilities right away!'"  I'm with Ruth, Betty and Elaine on this, I don't buy it.  Even if the US government comes out and confirms the reports, I'm not sure that I will buy it.
Rebecca: Okay, another topic.  Nouri al-Maliki, the puppet of the occupation, took his act on the road.  He visited Australia this week.  So let's talk about that.  While in Australia, he attempted to increase ties with Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.  Australia's ABC reports that he asked for more Australian investment in his country and they note, "Speaking through a translator, he said Australia had been generous in opening its doors to Iraqi refugees and called on it to help the country again."
Mike: Well, first off, the press release from Rudd, C.I. noted it, what is this, he visited their cemetary for their fallen.  I don't remember Nouri visiting Arlington Cementary when he came to the US.  And, no offense, but his kind words about sacrifice on the part of the Australian troops, we're talking three deaths.  I'm not remembering kind words for the Americans, whose death toll stands at 4257.  But maybe he made those but not at Arlington Cemetary so it flew over my head. 
Wally: I did find it interesting that Australia also has a tomb of an unknown soldier, but I agree with Mike, that was kind of offensive.  All the more so when you consider that last month he was insulting the vice president of the United States.  And, since so many do not follow the news, let me point out that John Howard, whom Kevin Rudd replaced, was runner up to Tony Blair for Bush lapdog.  Australia was all over the lies for illegal war, spreading them, pimping them.  It's not like Australia is some innocent compared to the government in the US.  C.I.?

C.I.: I have no idea what Nouri's said in the US.  My guess would be Mike's correct.  He didn't make any statements like that at Arlington Cementary.  I know Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, hasn't made any statements like that at the cemetary; however, he comes to the US for health care.  So he's got other things on his mind.  But I want to take issue with that claim that Australia's done something amazing with refugees.  They haven't.  They are as bad as the US.  As Mike was pointing out earlier, the leaders on the illegal war were the US, the UK and Australia.  Near the end of 2007, they'd almost gotten up to admitting 6,000 refugees from Iraq to Australia.  That is not a huge number.  Sweden remains the western country that is carrying the weight for all the other western countries -- including for the US.  And, of course, Jordan and Syria -- as well as Lebanon and Egypt -- have huge numbers of Iraqi refugees. I find it very interesting that Nouri went to Australia to ask for things and yet asking for more refugees to be admitted wasn't on his list.  His list was, "Give me money, invest in my country, blah, blah, blah."  But the largest humanitarian crisis right now and he can't even make a request -- and apparently wants to pretend that Australia's done something amazing.
Marcia: On the issue of refugees, I wanted to weigh in on an aspect.  C.I. critiqued some revelations in an article by Tina Susman this week and I agree with that.  To back it up, the article was about the Los Angeles Times' Iraqi employees who were applying for visas to come to the US as refugees.  And they were getting fast tracked because they were media workers but they get waived through and suddenly they don't want it.  I agree with C.I., you have just abused the system and you should now be kicked out.  If you decide you want to leave again, not to the US.  There are too many people, too many under attack, for Iraqis who aren't sure what they want to do to waste everyone's time.  Every family that decides, "I'll stay here in Iraq!" is one family willing to leave that got bumped as the media workers were fast tracked through. 
Ava: Does anyone else even question that system being in place?

Trina: I do.  For anyone who doesn't know, if you've helped a US media outlet, if you've been a translator or collaborated with the US military or US diplomatic staff, you can be fast tracked through the refugee application process.  You may not get waived out of the country but you will jump ahead of everyone else in the process pile.  One would assume that "refugee status" would be based on need and solely on need.
Betty: I would agree with you, Trina.  And I would note that, for example, the US military lied to Iraqis all the time at the start of the illegal war, telling them they would get to come to the US and that wasn't reality, they didn't even have the fast-track policy in place back then.  In fact, in May 2006, Ava and C.I. wrote "TV: The Urine Stains of David Mamet" about this while tackling The Unit, "The kid will ask for only one thing (the kid's under twelve, with a dead mother and no family around) -- that if he helps them, they will take him to America. Jonas doesn't bat an eye as he promises they will. The kid asks him to swear it. Jonas will swear it. Of course the kid's not taken to America. Jonas lied to him. ('Twists and turns!' screams the playwright who never learned about characterization.) The kid's left in the town where he's not only an orphan struggling to feed himself but, probably, a marked 'man' since it's going to be obvious who ratted out the location of the helicopter that the boys shot down. But that's our amoral world of Mamet. Machismo means never having to work up a tear for an orphaned child. Jonas Blane probably watches Jerry Lewis telethons to laugh at the children."  I asked Ty about that, for help finding it, because I figured refugees would be a topic tonight and he asked me to note that when Ava and C.I. wrote that, there were angry drive-bys of 'how dare you!' and 'David Mamet is a liberal!'  He asked me to note that Mamet went public last year about being a conservative and that Ava and C.I. caught just what a conservative he'd become in 2006 just, quoting Ty, "by paying attention to what his writing said."
Trina: Good point on Ty's part and, in the case of this review, the 12-year-old boy, that would be, in the real world, someone who would qualify.  He'd qualify because he was now an orphan.  He'd qualify because he was in danger if he remained.  That makes him a refugee. 

Stan: And to the issue of what doesn't, I agree with everything being said here.  Media workers, for example, can certainly apply.  But they shouldn't be fast tracked over genuine refugees.  And that is what happens now.  Collaborate with the US military or work for one of their media companies and get fast tracked.  That's wrong.  And I think it's even more wrong to make it through the process, get told you can go to the United States and then say you don't want to go.  Because the agencies have been working on your family's application and that's time they could have been working on another family's application.  Someone's been waiting so you get an offer you're going to turn down.
Ava: Right and in Susman's article, she talks about one man who is in the middle of the process right now and, he says, he's not sure he's going to the US if he gets told he can.  So why aren't you communicating that and telling them to withdraw your application right now? Why are you wasting everyone's time?  There is a refugee crisis and it is internal and external.  Iraqis who are genuine refugees do not need an already slow system being clogged up further by people who don't want to go to the US but would like to know if they qualified.  Just for kicks, you understand, just for  kicks.
Cedric: If we can stay on refugees for just a minute more, I would like to point out a group that made it into two snapshots this week, Collateral Repair Project.  Even if you don't have money to give to the project, you should visit that website and see the photos and read the stories.  The posts I read were on Iraqi refugees in Jordan.
Betty: The stories upset me but the one that upset me the most was the Iraqi woman with three children, all born in Iraq, whose husband had lived in Iraq for 25 years but was Egyptian.  The United Nations would only give the wife financial aid as a refugee.  They insisted her three kids didn't qualify because they were "Egyptian."  That is stupid and I can't believe the United Nations would be so inept and so callous -- and, honestly, so ignorant.  But as Cedric says, read those stories.  They will break your heart.  The little girl who draws a razor because older school bullies threatened to cut her face with a razor and the parents of Iraqi children can't complain about threats because they might be further penalized for being refugees.
Cedric: I'd actually forgotten that story and it's a really sad one.  But there are so many important stories at  Collateral Repair Project and it's so very easy to forget one or two because the one that tends to register the most is the last one you read. 
Rebecca: Good points all and we're going to need to start winding down.  I've got three more topics but I'll go with one.  E-mails have been released by the government in the United Kingdom and they explain how Tony Blair's government rigged the 'findings' in the lead-up to the start of the Iraq War.  C.I.'s covered for the last two days.  In addition to today's snapshot, I would encourage you to see yesterday's as well.  This is from Ian Bell's Saturday column for The Herald:
It wears thin. They hold down one thing, up pops another. Straw overturns his own freedom of information legislation to suppress the minutes of cabinet discussions prior to the Iraq war. Instantly another piece of truth, an adjunct, springs out like a loose floorboard thanks to that same law, despite the government that made the law.
Documents, e-mail records, that were not released to the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly in 2003 are yielded up by the Cabinet Office after four years of persistent and wilful - on whose orders? - stalling.
They demonstrate that the intelligence services, paid to know, were less than convinced that Saddam Hussein possessed a fearsome, ready and working, arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. There was doubt, a lot of it.
Rebecca (Con't): So that was Ian Bell.  Ava. C.I. and Mike can't comment because Polly's making this the topic for her roundtable for Polly's Brew and Ava, C.I. and Mike are participating in that tomorrow night.  But anyone else who wants to grab it can.
Stan: I'm glad you found a column that's new because the most troubling thing for me has been the silence.  As you pointed out, C.I.'s hit hard on it yesterday and today but it's hard to tell how much it's registering.  And that might just be my frustration and feeling of, "I've watched this movie over and over.  I know how it ends."
Marcia: Right because no one gets punished and there's no inquiry.  That has been the pattern. 
Ruth: What I wish is that Americans would all pay attention to this in terms of where it goes.  My guess is New Labour will again refuse an inquiry.  New Labour is the equivalent of the Democrats and I think it will be very illuminating to grasp how much politicians work to bury the truth. 
Trina: I'll agree with Ruth on that.  We have nothing going on in this country in terms of Congress doing anything on Iraq.  They're not trying to end it, they're not trying to investigate it.  And the Democratic Party wants us to give them even more seats in the mid-term?  At this rate, if they do get more seats, they'll show up in 2012 whining that they 'only' have 400 seats in the House and 89 in the Senate and can't do anything until they have 100% in both houses. 
Cedric: I would agree with that.  I would agree that the Democrats little game has gotten as old as beggar media.  I'm tired of it.  I'll be voting third party November 2010 unless the Congress starts demanding a real and quick withdrawal from Iraq.  In other words, I'll be voting third party in November 2010.  Because Congress isn't going to do a damn thing.
Rebecca: Well said.  Thank you to everyone for participating.  We're going to wind down.  Ava and C.I. took notes.  They'll type this up.  This is a rush transcript.  We're debating whether or not to do another one next Friday.  Debating because we didn't realize there was another Friday before the Saturday activism -- not tomorrow, next Saturday.  So there's a good chance you'll see another roundtable next Friday.  We're trying to keep the focus on Iraq and that's been the point of these roundtables as well as the ones at Third.  And let me throw a link to Third -- actually two.  First, there roundtable last Sunday was "Talking Iraq"  which you should make a point to read.  Second, Jim played Thomas E. Ricks for an exchange on Iraq -- C.I. was the voice for "leave Iraq now" entitled "The Thomas E. Ricks Dialogue."  Lastly, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, participated this week and was noted in my intro at the start.  She also participated last week and I forgot to note her in the intro.  Apologies to Lainie.