Tuesday, March 10, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, another deadly Baghdad bombing with mass fatalities, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro and Thomas E. Ricks talk Iraq realities while Phyllis Bennis sounds like a raving lunatic, and more.
Let's start with reality and then we'll turn to the nut jobs. Yesterday Thomas E. Ricks appeared on NPR's Talk of the Nation yesterday. Ricks is the author of The Gamble. Appearing with him on the show were NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (who heads NPR's Baghdad bureau) and Ghassan Adnan (Iraqi producer). Neil Conan is the host of the program.
Thomas E. Ricks: I think that Obama and the people around him are repeating the optimisim of the Bush administration. It's not a departure from Bush to say you want to get out of Iraq. George Bush didn't invade Iraq saying, "I have a great idea. Let's go get stuck in a quagmire for ten years." The original war plan had us down to 30,000 troops by September 2003. Well here we are seven years later. We have more than four times that number of troops and the new president is saying "I want to get us out of Iraq, out of fighting in Iraq by August of next year." Well just because you hang a "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner doesn't mean the war ends, just because you say it's a non-combat mission doesn't mean the war ends. The war ends when American troops stop dying. And I was over at the White House the day of the president's speech [Feb. 27th] and I said, "Does this mean American troops will stop dying in August of 2010?" And a military official there said, "No, it does not mean that."
[. . .]
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: I'd just like to speak to something that Thomas Ricks just said. Um, it's kind of interesting, the war ends when no US soldiers are killed here. You know, it's -- through all of this, you tend to forget the Iraqi narrative. We're talking about the Obama administration, what they think, what they believe. Of course there is a sovereign, now, Iraqi government who also has a say in what happens here and what kinds of, you know, US forces remain here and what the war will look like for them. It's not only US soldiers who die but of course Iraqi civilians, Iraqi army, Iraqi police and that also has a -- that characterizes what will happen here in the coming years and months.
Thomas E. Ricks: That's a good point. I should have said "our war ends when US troops stop dying." I think the war goes on for decades.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: It's just -- possibly. And it's certainly a sobering thought for the Iraqis I speak to here. I do spend -- you know, when you're living in Baghdad and covering it -- I've been covering this since 2002 actually -- we have to deal with the US military and, of course, the Iraqis as well. And we -- you know, it's a balancing act. And our staff monitors six [Iraqi] papers a day, three Iraqi channels, and, of course, we go out. Now the security situation is better, I travel all over the country. Tomorrow I'm going into Anbar Province, up near Haditha. I've been pretty much everywhere now days in Iraq and that, of course, allows you to do reporting as you would in any other country, which means getting on the ground, talking to people and seeing exactly what's going on for yourself. Before we had to rely on the US military. They're the ones that had to take us places, we had to embed, we had to see things through their prism. Now that has changed dramatically and we can really go out in a way that we've never been able to since the early days of the war to see for ourselves exactly what's going on.
Neal Conan: And let me quickly follow up again on something Tom Ricks said, decades, Tom?
Thomas E. Ricks: Yeah, I think there will be people fighting and dying in Iraq for decades.
Neal Conan: And Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, do you agree with that?
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: Well, I think that may possibly be true. As I try and point out in many of my reports, I think the -- for many Americans, they believe that the war is over. I mean there's a lack of interest now that President Obama has said they will be withdrawing US forces in great numbers in the coming year -- not this year, but next year. I think people have sort of thought, 'Well, the war is over in Iraq.' But people die here every single day. There are many simmering conflicts. It might not look like the conflicts that we saw before during the sectarian violence but there are other things that are going on here that could presage many bad days to come. I don' t know, I'm not a prognosticator but certainly Iraq is not stable yet.
Thomas E. Ricks: I think it's a good point that the war has changed several times. It started as a blitzkrieg invasion, then it was a botched occupation, then it was a slow rising but durable insurgency, then it was an American counter-offensive. The war is changing again. It kind of feels like a lull right now. But just because it's changed doesn't mean it's ended and a lot of Americans have stopped paying attention because I think they wrongly think that it's over.
We'll come back to that broadcast -- including Lourdes expanding on her thoughts of the Iraqi government. And Thomas E. Ricks is scheduled to be on Tavis Smiley (PBS) tonight.
From reality to the cracked ravings of Phyllis. Phyllis Bennis would like to be the voice of something. Even she doesn't know what. And that's very clear when she churns out a bad piece like she did at ZNet. First off, Phyllis, where were you in 2008? You managed one carefully worded column questioning Barack. So when you show up today tossing around "we," you really need to just stop. In fact, your 'moral' authority is such that, frankly, you have none. You have no standing. Not on Iraq. You have no standing because you dabble. That's how you end up on CounterSpin over a year after Nancy A. Youssef (in what was her last story for Knight-Ridder -- it flipped to McClatchy the next day) broke the news about the US military keeping a list of the Iraqi deaths. You show up a year after that blabbering on about how the US must be keeping a list and why don't we know about this list and why have no reporters asked about this list. You dabble and you end up looking like a fool. Like an idiot. You have no pull, you have no authority. You need to stop thinking you can show issuing orders every three months via a (bad) Iraq article that reads as if you dashed it off while you had a load of whites on rinse.
Phyllis blathers on with a lot of "we" and she doesn't speak for the bulk of the peace movement. She'd like to but she doesn't and she needs to be blown off when she tries to present herself as a voice. She is, at her best, an analyst. Not of the US government, not of the peace mvoement. Those are not her areas. But she's not interested in her areas which is how her lengthy blather never gets around to noting Iraqis. Their wants, their needs, their issues. She can't write about Iraqis, she can't speak for the peace movement, so what's she jawboning our ears off about? Barry. President Barry Obama.
Phyllis yammer about ". . . our job is not to convince the people of this country that there is no way President Obama will end the occupation of Iraq. Our job will be to convince people that the only way President Obama will be able to overcome the powerful pro-war opposition inside and outside . . ." No one asked you. Do you get it? No one asked you. No one wants your opinion. You're allegedly an analyst. Of foreign affairs. That's what your IPS bio says, that's how you're billed when you're brought on some program. How about doing your job? Or is that too much for you? Brookings doesn't go on TV yacking about "our job." Cato or any of the right wing organizations don't do that. They offer analysis of the issues. In this case, they'd be analayzing Iraq. When you refuse to do that, when you think you can ignore your role and grab others, you make a fool out of yourself. And I'm wording that very kindly. Probably too kindly. You are a professional apologist for the do-nothings at United for Peace and Justice. There are actions taking place and Phyllis doesn't want you to know about them. Her latest crap is similar -- almost word-for-word -- to the crap she posted at United for Pathetic and Juvenile pimping their crap for April. UPFJ which will not call out Barack. It goes to the 20th Century Closet Communist panics and fears of confronting a "Black" man. Hate to break it to you, UPFJ, but unless you're going to operate in an all-White world, you're going to have to call out leaders of color.
Their cowardice on this issue was on full display at UPFJ's December 'strategy' session where the alleged peace movement 'leaders' explained they can't take on a "Black" man. So instead they proposed to 'honor' Barack via MLK. Barack isn't Black (he's bi-racial) and he's not MLK. Grow the hell up, Phyllis and quit hanging with those nut jobs at UPFJ. They're toast. Leslie Cagan is a grown woman, an elderly woman some might say, and she can't state publicly, "I am a Communist." Therefore, Leslie is a FAILURE and everyone working with her is a FRAUD or a FAILURE. There is nothing wrong with being a Communist, a Socialist, a Democrat, a Republican, what have you. There is something very wrong with being in a political closet. And it's important that we start all getting honest.
UPFJ has launched non-stop attacks on A.N.S.W.E.R. and benefitted from the fact that A.N.S.W.E.R. is seen as "Communist" (while UPFJ is not seen that way). There are Communists in A.N.S.W.E.R., there are anarchists, there are people of every political stripe. UPFJ has played the game their spiritual forebearers played during McCarthyism: Closeted Communists finger point at others. That happened repeatedly during the McCarthy witch hunt. And if you could do, for example, then what UPFJ does now, you could and did work for The Nation. But if you were upfront about who you were, as some Communists in A.N.S.W.E.R. are, the doors were closed for you and there was an effort made to point fingers at you. Those were the sacrificial lambs. And it's past time we all stopped treating Victor Navasky's Little Golden Reader version of history as accurate. It was a start. But it was as bad as any Disney take on history and refused to point to those who benefitted from the witch hunt. There is more reality on Heroes, the NBC program, currently doing a story on witch hunts, than in Naming Names when it comes to seriously exploring the hows and whos. As happened during McCarthy, the witch hunt on Heroes benefits from . . . someone in a closet. (There's also more honesty and maturity in Sara Paretsky's novel Blacklist.) The good news is that except for a 'sociologist' and Red Betty, the closet cases had no careers (or flipped to neo-con) fairly quickly. And the same will happen with today's because Barack Democrats will not stand for Leslie, Judith, Carl and all the other Communists in the closet trying to elbow their way to the front. They fear those closeted freaks will embarrass Barack. And they, Barack Democrats, grasp they can't keep holding the line. They can't keep insisting, "Oh, that evil Republican Noise Machine, trying to draw connections between Barack Obama and Communism or Socialism! It's all false!" You can't keep insisting that and allow the likes of Leslie, Carl, Judith, et al to go around as they do. I'm not talking a round-up. I am saying walls are being constructed to make sure that those elements have no access and no influence on Barack Obama. And hooray for that because these closet cases have run a tepid and wimpering peace 'movement' and they've done so because they can't admit who they are so they can't really engage in a struggle. When you're lying to your followers as well as to the press about what you are and who you are, how can you lead a damn thing? You can't. And they need to own their guilt and they need to own the blood of Iraqis which is on their hands because if you can't step up into the spotlight and say, "I'm ___ and I'm a ___" -- whatever "____" is -- you have no business attempting to be a political leader. You are corrupted before you say a single word because you have chosen to live in a closet. And the little games you play have very deadly consequences. And in a sane moment, if she's still capable of them, Naomi Wolf would agree with me. Before she went drunk on Barry Obama, she was getting ready to make that point (and does include it in her book The End of America: Letters of Warning to a Young Patriot).
This month 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 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: www.pentagonmarch.org or www.answercoalition.org.
Back to NPR's Talk of the Nation yesterday. Thomas E. Ricks asked Lourdes whether or not she thought Iraq's government could be termed a sovereign one.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: No. I think -- I think that even they would say that they aren't considered sovereign. I think when you have the presence of 140,000 US forces here, I don't think any government would say that it is sovereign. I think the Iraqi people certainly don't think that they are sovereign. You speak to them on the streets and they will not say that this is a sovereign country. They will say that this is a country under occupation. That said, there is now a legal framework in place and I do see the Iraqis . . . taking . . . control more and more.
Also addressed was the issue of the press coverage of Iraq and who remains and who is leaving?
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: Ah. These are very, very difficult days in Iraq because, of course, it's extremely expensive and has been, prohibitively expensive to cover this war. NPR I think spends on the order of one million dollars a year which is a lot of money for an organization like us -- security costs and everything else. And what we are seeing is a drawing down of the press corps as well. We are seeing many of the important news organizations here, the Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, the ones who have been here from the very beginning are now actually reducing the number of correspondents that will be covering this conflict and I think that that is a measure of the fact that there are important stories out there that deserve a lot of attention like, of course, the global finacial crisis, among others. Afghanistan, of course, is getting a lot of attention as well. and we are seeing diminished interest in what is happening here in Iraq.
Neal Conan: Tom Ricks, you were saying earlier, obviously there are still many more American troops in Iraq then there are in Afghanistan -- or even plan to go to Afghanistan -- and you were saying one of the things the soldiers were telling you, 'Does anybody still know we're here?'
Thomas E. Ricks: Yeah, that came up a lot in my last trip. Is people just wondering do people still know we're out here?" The numbers have really not come down. Even the numbers if they come down as they're planning this year. We'll still be at 132,000 troops which is roughly the average we've had there for the entire war.
The Iraq War has not ended. Liars and fools (which would include Phyllis Bennis) would have you believe that it has. But it continues and people continue dying. In Iraq today, another suicide bomber. Early this morning AP was reporting 28 dead and twenty-eight wounded. Reuters gave the same figures and noted: "A source at Yarmouk hospital, the main hospital in western Baghdad, said it had received the body of a journalist working for al-Baghdadiya, an independent television station. Another journalist with al-Iraqiya state television was wounded, he said." Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) was reporting close to immediately and noted an eyewitness who said the bomber was "wearing a national police uniform" and that the death toll was 33 with forty-six wounded. She also added, "The bombing suggest a renewed ability by insurgents to mount more effective suicide bombings, after a long period in which such attacks were relatively few and less lethal because of heavy security precautions." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) explains the bombing took place "in the Abu Ghraib municipality, 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the center of the Iraqi capital, President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party said on its Web site. The tribal leaders and a group of soldiers were visiting a market when the bomber struck, the PUK said. Two Iraqi journalists, including one from the independent al-Baghdadiya television station, were among the dead." NDTV Arabia identifies the two journalists killed as Suhaib Adnan and Haider Hashim. A third journalist, Ibrahim al-Katib, working for Iraqi state TV, was wounded. Ennahar Online offers a recent look at attacks on journalists in Iraq. Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) explains that the tribal leaders were "attending a reconciliation conference" and "The bombing unleashed chaos in the ramshackle market that lines the street near the municipal buildings of Abu Ghraib, on Baghdad's western outskirts. In the confusion, soldiers opened fire, wounding more people, and hospital staff complained that they were overwhelmed with the flood of casualties brought to their facility." Alissa J. Rubin and Marc Santora (NYT's International Herald Tribune) note, "There is an investigation into whether the shooting after the bombing was an ambush by gunmen or undisciplined gunfire by Iraqi security forces, said Marjor General Qassim Atta, spokesman for the Baghdad security plan." Wail al-Hofath and James Hider (Times of London) state, "The attack was a clear attempt to sabotage efforts to reconcile the Iraqi people at the crucial tribal leve, which has been vital in diminishing violence over the past two years. . . . The Sunni and Shia tribal leaders were in talks aimed at alleviating the deep and lingering animosity between the communities in Iraq after years of death squads, suicide bombings and ethnic cleansing." Jamal Hashim and Gao Shan (Xinhua) report, " An Interior Ministry source told Xinhua Tuesday that up to 33 people were killed and some 46 others injured in the latest bloody suicide bombing when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a crowd of tribal leaders and army officers while they were leaving the town hall" though another version the reporters were told had a suicide bomber wearing a vest (most outlets are reporting a car). Matthew Schofield (McClatchy Newspapers) quotes an unnamed eyewitness declaring, "I have seen a dog carrying human flesh, a shoulder, as another dog was eating part of a human leg covered with blood. Iraqi soldiers chased the dogs, tryign to take these parts from them. I saw a human jaw thrown on the ground, and Iraqi soldiers refusing to allow to any one to pick it up. They said it belonged to the suicide bomber."
BBC's Mike Sergeant observes, "At the weekend Maj Gen David Perkins, the coalition spokesman, said that Iraq had moved 'from a very unstable to a stable position'" and notes how, later Sunday, over 30 were killed by a suicide bomber in Baghdad. Sergeant states it's too early to tell about March and violence could dip as the month continues but notes, "Those policy makers who think that the Iraq 'problem' has somehow been 'solved' might be starting to wrry that they had, once again, been over-optimistic and guilty of simplifying a very complicated place." Rania Abouzeid (Time magazine) notes that the increase in violence (which most are tracing to Thursday's suicide bombing but Caroline Alexander notes continues the increase that February saw over January) comes as al-Maliki tries "to cobble together a semblance of pan-Iraqi political solidarity. He has made an overture of reconciliation to low-level former members of the Baath Party, which ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein." Abouzeid reports:
Still, the audacity of the attacks, coupled with their lethal effectiveness and high casualty rates, may signal the resumption of a reinvigorated insurgency that has had time to regroup. A source close to the insurgency told TIME that sleeper cells in and around the Sunni stronghold of Abu Ghraib -- site of the infamous prison now renamed the Baghdad Central Prison -- have been planning renewed attacks for months. Tuesday's strike in the marketplace was carried out by the sheik of a local extremist Takfiri mosque, a man in his 20s named Abu Taymiyeh, the source claimed. The allegation could not be independently verified.
Hazim al-Nuaimi, a political analyst, tells Waleed Ibrahim and Aseel Kami (Reuters), "These attacks raise questions about political power struggles" and he questions the rush by some to blame al Qaeda in Mesopotamia (which is only one of many groups resisting the US occupation). Regardless of responsibility (still unclear), Amanda Ruggeri (US News & World Reports) concludes, "And for Iraqis, the attacks are a reminder that, despite an increase in stability that has allowed many civilians to warily resume more normal lives, their country remains far from peaceful." Staffan de Mistura, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq, has termed today's bombing "a horrible crime that is deisgned to sabotage reconciliatory efforts by the Iraqi people."
China's Xinhua reports, "An American marine died in Iraq at a result of an incident that did not involve combat on Tuesday, the U.S. military said. The soldier, assigned to Multi National Force-West (MNF-W), died on Tuesday, a military statement said without providing further details about the incident." The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4257.
In other reported violence today . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul car bombing that claimed 2 lives -- a docotr and "the son of the Head of the local Judicial Council" -- and left six other people wounded and, dropping back to last night, a Mosul grenade attack on a wedding party that resulted in twelve being wounded "including women and children." Reuters notes a bombing outside of Mosul that claimed the life of 1 "young girl."
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 "woman who works in Mosul University, Department of Computer Science" was shot dead in her home in Mosul this morning.
Turning to Iraq court news. February 19th, Muntadar al-Zaidi (also spelled Muntadhar al-Zeidi) had one day in court before the judge adjourned to figure out what Bully Boy Bush was doing in Iraq. December 14th Bully Boy was in Baghdad and Muntadhar threw one shoe and then a second at George W. Muntadar exclaimed, "This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss you dog" and "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." Muntadar was immediately attacked by Nouri al-Maliki's thugs and has been imprisoned ever since. February 19th, he had a brief (90 minute) hearing. The judge ruled they'd be back on March 12th. Camada's CBC reported he was briefly back in court today before the judge "adjourned to Thursday" -- there was time for Muntadar to be greeted with "applause and shouts of support in the courtroom and the hallway". CBS and AP also note the trial is due to resume Thursday and they report that Dargham al-Zeidi, Muntadhar's brother, was attempting to stage a demonstration at Firdous Square in Baghdad; however, police broke it up and refused to allow it to take place. Michael Howard (Guardian of Manchester) adds, "A 25-strong team of lawyers has been preparing the journalist's defence. It is led by Dhiya al-Saadi, who said he would ask for an immediate release because the law under which Zeidi is charged is not applicable in his case."
Turning to the US and starting with the White House. A friend in the administration asks that I note this White House blog post which includes, "The President and Ms. Obama salute Senator Ted Kennedy on his birthday." If Michelle Obama is now going to be billed as "Ms. Obama," more power to her. She's a grown woman and, prior to 2007, was a very strong one. It would be nice to see that side re-emerge publicy. Now we're back on the subject of her husband and while silly Phyllie Bennis can't do anything of value (but she can get it for you wholesale), Margaret Kimberley (Black Agenda Report) offers this on War Hawk Barrack Obama's 'withdrawal':
As always, the president chose his words very carefully. The parsing was so clever that it fooled many people into celebrating when there is no reason for joy. There will still be American troops in Iraq, up to 50,000 of them. "As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. Initially, this force will likely be made up of 25-50,000 U.S. troops."
[. . .]
The damage done by the complete capitulation of many progressives to Obama is now bearing fruit. He is able to dismiss them and his own party without suffering any political damage. He said as much in a PBS interview with Jim Lehrer.
JIM LEHRER: You're not the least bit uneasy over the fact as John McCain and John Boehner, the Republican leader of the House, have praised your plan while the Democrats are criticizing it?
BARACK OBAMA: You know, I don't - I don't make these decisions based on polls or popularity. I make the decisions based on what I think is best.
In other words, the Democrats can go to hell. He doesn;t care what they think. He doesn't have to care what they think because they gave him carte blanche to say and do anything he wanted during the campaign. McCain and Boehner are now his cheerleaders and Democrats have to be happy with whatever their leader deems to be acceptable.
Finally, Amy Goodman did her usual spin for Barack today. New rule, Afghanistan women commenting on Afghainstan? They need to be raised there. We don't need an American who went to Afghanistan (and increased her wealth) after the US invaded in 2001 passing herself off as Afghanistan. The FRAUD tosses kisses to the Taliban. That's why Pravada on the Hudson put her on the air. In the real world, Alisa Tang (Ms. magazine) writes: "There are many brave Afghan women who continue to fight for their rights. Some like Samar are vocal. Others surreptitiously push forward women's rights within a male-dominated society. There is a sense of urgency among them, because with the Taliban back in strength and potentially at the negotiating table with the government, their lives are on the line again." Elaine's "Anti-feminist Barack Obama" and Kat's "Afghanistan" covered the topic last night.