Friday, March 20, 2009

Iraq roundtable

Rebecca: Welcome to the Friday Iraq roundtable.  This should be our fifth.  We've done these for the last six Fridays -- we skipped one Friday -- to help put a spotlight on the Iraq War and to note the March on the Penatagon which takes place tomorrow in DC.  We'll have more on that in a moment.  But we are in DC for tomorrow's March.  Today's if this posts on Saturday.  Participating tonight are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim and Ava;  me, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;  C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;  Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Trina of Trina's Kitchen, Wally of The Daily Jot and Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts.  This roundtable will also be posted at the sites of Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,  Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ and Ruth of Ruth's Report. For Stan and Marcia, it's their first group trip to DC.  Ruth's also brought four grandchildren.  Tracey and Jayson have been here with all of us before but the other two are new to DC.  C.I. had offered to guest post at other sites if anyone wanted to go out and felt like they had to post as well.  Marcia asked if it would be possible just to cross-post the roundtable at her site and then the others agreed that was a great idea.  Jim's participating mainly to make sure C.I. doesn't talk about something Jim wants saved for Third on Sunday.  I am not joking.  Ty, Jess, Dona and Dallas are out with the gang seeing the nightlife in DC, in case anyone wonders.  Ava and C.I. are taking notes and will type this up.  This is a rush transcript.  With that lengthy intro, I can't imagine that I've forgotten anything.  Okay, where do we want to kick this off at?
Trina: I want to start with Kristoffer Walker because of the fact that I think it's an important issue and I also want to be sure it's covered at my site.  We don't have to go into great detail, I know Jim wants a piece at Third, but I do want it noted and noted at the start.
Rebecca: No problem, Trina.  We're going to toss to Ava for the background.
Ava: Okay, Kristoffer Walker is a 28-year-old Iraq War veteran. He had attempted to get discharged through channels.  He was ignored.  He returned on a pass last month and declared that he would not be returning to Iraq.  He stated the Iraq War was illegal and immoral.   Upon returning home, he advised the military of his decision and saw his local Guard to see about duties he might be able to do but was cursed out there.  The Associated Press covered his story and was the only national domestic news source to do so.  That includes small media and I have to leave it at that on that because we will be addressing that at Third.  This week he was back in the news.  With the military threatening and -- my opinion -- little supoort, he decided to return to Iraq.  He is still opposed to the illegal war and stands by his statements.
Mike: This really ticked off my mother, this topic.
Rebecca: Trina is Mike's mother.
Mike: Right, sorry.  And he didn't get any support, Ava's right.  Courage to Resist, for example, an organization that is supposed to get the word out on service members who resist, never mentioned him.  We're talking weeks where he wasn't mentioned.  Media ignored him.  It was disgusting.  And they ignored him after he announced his decision.
Wally: And to be really clear here, AP covered that and covered him.  Other than them, he was covered by Wisconsin media.  He was also covered by right-wing websites which slammed him repeatedly.  Can I toss to you on that, Jim?
Jim: Sure.  C.I. covered Kristoffer repeatedly at The Common Ills --
C.I.: Interrupting to note that Jim and Dona filled in for me the night of the Academy Awards and they covered it the night they filled in.  That was the first time it was covered at The Common Ills.  Credit where it's due.
Jim: Thank you.  But C.I. covered it repeatedly.  And because of that, the nasty e-mails came in.  Dona and I help out with the e-mails at the public account for The Common Ills.  There are others who help out like Jess, Martha, Shirley, Eli, Ava and C.I.  But there were really disgusting e-mails.  On Kristoffer Walker, on C.I. for covering Kristoffer.  And they'd usually note, these nasty e-mails, what this right-wing web site said or that one said.  To be clear, no right-wing blogger, that I know of, e-mailed to attack.  But it was obvious that the right-wing was covering Kristoffer Walker and, as is their inclination, they were slamming him.  So with no left defense, he was pretty much on his own.
Trina: There's a mother that writes me regularly.  Her son self-checked out and has gone elsewhere, outside of the US, not to Canada, and is now engaged to a woman in that country.  He's been 'underground' bascially this whole time and hopefully he'll be able to go above ground after the wedding.  But, she wrote just outraged each week over the refusal by so many media outlets to cover Kristoffer Walker and she was especially outraged by the silence. As am I.  
Rebecca: It really was something and I tossed to Ava because she could do background but nothing else.  Ditto C.I.  The reason is Jim wants a piece on it for Third and if we run out of time or can't get it to work when we're writing it, he wants Ava and C.I. to be prepared to grab it in their TV piece. 
Jim: If I could add one more thing.  A number of e-mails came into The Common Ills on KPFA and I am lobbying Ava and C.I. to do two features -- the second would be on KPFA's hideous performance this week that just played out like a "We do not deserve tax payer funding."
Rebecca: I agree that would be interesting.  Let's turn to stop-loss.  Isaiah hasn't spoken and said he wasn't sure how much help he'd be so let me toss to him to give us some background on stop-loss.
Isaiah: Stop-loss is the backdoor draft.  You enlist and you sign a contract.  Say for eight years.  That would usually mean six years of service and two years inactive at the end of your contract.  In many cases, when your contract was coming to an end for active duty service, you would be informed you had been stop-lossed.  In other cases, your contract might be up.  C.I. had this in the snapshot but pulled it because there wasn't enough room, the snapshot was too many K, but look at Camilo Mejia.  His contract had completely expired.  He was serving in Iraq and he was stop-lossed there. 
Jim: If I could, I'll recommend Kimberly Peirce's Stop-Loss which was insulted by KPFA today, by two people, as C.I.'s pointed out in replies to e-mails complaining about Aimee and her guest's little stunt, who didn't know what they were talking about.  I don't just mean about the film, I mean about stop-loss.  They may get busted by C.I. and Ava and I'm pushing for that.
Elaine: I'll jump in because I know Ava and C.I. can't address this subjet -- in case they're covering it Sunday at Third.  As C.I. pointed out in today's snapshot, Robert Gates has repeatedly said the army would work to eliminate stop-loss.  It hasn't happened yet.  Nor is he making a promise that will cease.  The best, kicking out all qualifiers, is he can guarantee a few months will not utilize stop-loss.  Thomas E. Ricks has also pointed out that when stop-loss is supposedly being phased out, Robert Gates is out of the job as Secretary of Defense so it will actually be the next Secretary of Defense that will be over it.
Trina: To me, it's still the same thing it always is which is Barack gets applauded for doing nothing.  A vague announcement is made and everyone tosses aside the vagueness and cheers madly. 
Wally: Exactly.  You've got liars praising Barack for something that, if it happens, IF, will not happen until January 2010.  This is insane.  It's the lazy child theory that C.I.'s friend was talking about.
Trina: Exactly.  You sit there and praise the lazy child for something they say they will do and then, because they got their praise, they avoid doing a damn thing.  How about we start waiting to see what's happening, to see something implemented, see if it's done?
Mike: I will not say whether it is a sister or brother but I will say my mother knows of what she speaks.  I have a sibling that you do not praise for what will be becuase if you do ___ will not do what ____ said they would. 
Elaine: You can take it to a relationship as well -- a love relationship.  Think of the guy you dated who never did a thing.  Think of how he meant to get you flowers for Valentine's Day or he meant to take you out to eat on your birthday or whatever.  That is one of the most common problems among women that I have seen in all my years of practice.  I always advise the same thing, which is what Trina's advocating right now, don't praise.  Don't say, "Oh, that's so nice that you were going to" whatever.  They get that bit of nice and they don't care.  This isn't all men.  It's not Mike and it's probably 2% of the men I've been involved with.  But I think probably 65% of women can tell you of at least one relationship they've had where this took place.
Ava: I would agree with that and include myself on that list; however, I'm not talking about Jess, I'm talking about before I was involved with Jess.
Rebecca: Okay.  The sixth anniversary of the illegal was Thursday.  Saturday actions take place.  The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War -- all are taking part in a real action. 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 Saturday afternoon.  If you're not in one of the cities listed above that doesn't mean there's not an action in your area.  I'm going to swipe this from C.I.'s snapshot today, "In addition, IVAW's Dustin Alan Parks has organized a demonstration in Fort Worth, Texas.  Chris Vaughn (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) reports  'the Rock Bottom Peace March" will take place "at 10 a.m. in General Worth Square in downtown Fort Worth'." So that's another event and there will be events in most areas.  I want to talk about the People's Mujahideen of Iran, though, right now.  I know very little of them.  I know C.I. was holding to give time for the issue to be addressed and I know they appeared in today's snapshot so I want to discuss them.
C.I.: Okay, they've been in Iraq for approximately 23 years.  They are Iranians.  After the Shah was overthrown, they were welcomed into Iraq by Saddam Hussein who was not fond of Iran, to put it mildly.  They have remained in Iraq all this time.  Some countries see them as a terrorist organization.  They have publicly renounced violence and the European Union decided not to list them as terrorists; however, the US continues to list them as such.  That's more of a Bush era determination.  I'm not saying that Barack's administration will change the listing -- or should -- I'm trying to make it clear as to what's going on.  If there's a question, ask because I don't know how indepth we want to get on this?
Mike: Okay, Let me ask about the State Dept.  I know this but for late comers. 
Elaine: Let's back up a second.  C.I. was asked by friends in the current administration not to write about this topic while they were attempting to deal with it.  Right after the election, this became a huge problem in Iraq.  And they were not in power, the new administration, and it was just a huge mess.  C.I. agreed -- and this was noted at The Common Ills -- not to weigh in until February unless the refugees were attacked.  You had Arianna's motley crue of uninformed bloggers weighing in at some point with alarmist posts that never include facts but make appeals to base emotions via 'creative' writing.  C.I. stayed out of it until March.   Until today.  So let's start with why today?
C.I.: The Iraqi government made clear that they want the People's Mujahideen of Iran out of Iraq.  They're asking for other countries to take them in.  That means that it's an issue that has to be addressed now.  Mike, you were asking about the State Dept?
Mike: Right.  Talk about what was going on then and what's going on now.
C.I.: Well then was Bush.  The State Dept knew the flare up was coming, the military knew it and was advising on it.  They had months and months worth of heads up and they refused, the Bush White House, refused to address the situation.  As Elaine pointed out, it finally flared up after the election and before Barack was sworn in.  Even the flare up didn't prompt the Bush White House into action.  A number of people at the State Department had prepared various options over the summer. The Bush administration wasn't interested then or at anytime else.  I've even been told there was a certain glee over the fact that the flare up was taking place as the handover to Barack was about to take place.
Mike: Glee on the part of the Bush administration.
C.I.: Yes.  Though not yet sworn in, this was one of the many foreign policy issues regarding Iraq that the Barack administration was discussing.  They have various ideas and I have no idea which one they're getting behind but they are going to have to do something now that Iraq's government is saying the refugees have to leave.  And "they are going to have to do something now" is not my attempting that they have dragged their feet.  This is a very complicated issue and the US military has been able to protect the refugee camp.  But that can't go on forever and it's not fair to the US military because the surrounding areas want the refugees out so it's only antagonizing relationships in that area, it's only builidng up ill will for US forces.  So the refugees are in danger, al-Maliki wants them out and the US forces are risking garnering more animosity for protecting the Iranian refugees.  For those three reasons, something has to be done.  Now, one thing that can be done, is to talk to Nouri al-Maliki and make it clear that he needs to back off.  If that happens, there may be more time to address the situation.  But by sending out his spokespeople to make the announcement and with Iran's reaction -- they want the Iranian refugees out of the region -- not just out of Iraq -- unless they're going to be able to try them.  So by sending out his spokespeople and with Iran's public reaction,the stakes got raised and in many ways it's worse than when the violence was more intense a few weeks ago, violence aimed at the refugees. 
Mike: So what do you think will be done or what you guess will be done?
C.I.: I have no idea.  I believe several options are being worked right now with the hopes that traction will start on one of them.  If you want my opinion on what the Barack administration would prefer right now, it would be getting al-Maliki to cool down and back off the they-must-leave talk.  Doing that would allow  more time for the US to go into talks with other countries about accepting the refugees.
Wally: Can the refugees come here?
C.I.: Children and women, possibly.  Not likely.  But possibly.  That was the opinion of State -- career employees -- under the previous administration and they continue to think maybe.  But it's a weaker maybe now because Bush, as a Republican, might have been able to sell it to Congressional Republicans.  Democrats might not like it but, out of humanitarian desires, might have allowed it.  But Barack's a Democrat.  He really can't propose that they come over and not expect major objections from the Republicans.  They are still considered a terrorist group, that's how the US  lists them.  So it's very unlikely that under Barack, any could come to the US.  The Republican reaction would most likely be to take the floor and denounce this admission of 'terrorists.'  I'm not saying they're terrorists, I'm not saying they're not.  They are refugees.  I don't think that can be debated.  It also can't be debated that the US has classified them as terrorists because that is the classification.  So I don't see them coming here.  Not in the current climate.  You would have Republicans going on TV, they would make this Guantanamo issue. With Guantanamo, the talking point -- the Republican talking point is, "These are terrorists!  Barack's making us unsafe!"  Forget the fact that nothing's been closed and no one's been set free.  But that's the talking point.  They would combine that if the People's Mujahideen of Iran were allowed -- even in part -- to come to the US.  They would tie it together and go to town on it.  So, my opinion, it's not likely. 
Wally: You're not taking an opinion on whether they're terrorists or not?
C.I.: No.  I'm not disputing that they are classifed as such by the US government.  But I'm not making a call on whether that's appropriate or not.  That's me.  Anyone in the community that wants to make a call one way or the other is welcome to do so.
Trina: You made a point in the snapshot that needs to be repeated here.  This needs to be dealt with now while US forces are on the ground.  Talk about that.
C.I.: The US forces are the only thing that have kept the refugees alive. There is tremendous ill will towards them in the region their camp is.  A small drawdown of approximately 10,000 US forces are supposed to take place between now and December 31st.  If violence flares up before or after or if al-Maliki needs US forces for another assault on Basra, you're putting the refugees at risk.  Ideally, before any drawdown begins, this should be taken care of because its been ignored and ignored.  And Iraq's now made a decision.  That decision is the Iranian refugees leave.  The US nees to faciliate that. 
Trina: And you're not saying that US forces should remain for a longer period or anything like that.
C.I.: No.  I'm saying the issue has been pushed by al-Maliki and has to be dealt with, that the US forces are the only thing that have kept the refugees safe and that the issue of their departure now has to be managed.  The only thing that would change that would be al-Maliki backing off. 
Ava: And if he did, he wouldn't be trust worthy.  He's blown that with the US.  They're very wary of what he might do in the lead up to the planned December elections.
Rebecca: Good point.  I think we're going to wrap up.  I'm going to let Isaiah and Trina give some closing thoughts or a topic we didn't grab that the might want to now.
Isaiah: Trina's nodding to me so I'll just say I can't believe what's going on.  I can't believe how little attention the sixth anniversary of the start of the illegal war has received this week.  I really think that if the left doesn't get over their infatuation with Barack real quick this country's going to be in huge trouble.
Trina: I would agree with Isaiah.  Daniel Ellsberg has been pointing out that the illegal war is not ending and he is being ignored.  Outlets that couldn't miss a word he said when Bully Boy Bush was in the White House now work overtime to ignore him.  It's very telling and very sad.  I would encourage everyone to get active tomorrow.
Rebecca: Well said.  Thank you to everyone for participating.  We're going to wind down now.  I can tell you that three topics discussed will be pulled by Jim because he wants them covered at Third.