Friday, March 20, 2009

The sixth anniversary in print

An Open Letter to the Peace/Anti-War Movement from
Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Veterans For Peace
After six years of war and the historic election of a new President, we as veterans, military and Gold Star families felt an urgent need to reach out to the larger peace/anti-war movements to make our position on Iraq clear during this time of political and economic uncertainty. Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out and Veterans For Peace continue to stand together in our demand to Bring the Troops Home Now! We ask all those who have stood with us in the past to stay faithful to the cause.
President Obama has announced a plan to gradually reduce troop levels in Iraq. Many in the peace/anti-war movements are breathing a sigh of relief, and suggesting that it is time for us to scale back our efforts to bring an end to the occupation of Iraq. But for our troops on the ground, their families and the Iraqi people, the nightmare continues. They need all of us to stay in the struggle. IVAW, MFSO and VFP have been long united in our call for an immediate and complete end to the occupation of Iraq and will not shift our stance under any circumstances.
President Obama's plan will result in more casualties and suffering for U.S. troops, their families and Iraqis. To the American public facing hard times here at home, two and a half more years of occupation may not sound like that long -- but for our troops and their families it means two and a half more years of fear, pain, and separation in a war and occupation based on lies. Hundreds of the troops deployed in the next two and a half years will not come home alive. Many more will return forever scarred by deep wounds to their bodies, minds, and spirits. Well over a million Iraqis have died as a result of this war -- many more will be killed as the occupation continues.
We cannot afford the cost of empire. Today we are in the midst of the worst economic crisis most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Yet our government continues to allow the occupation to drain $10 billion a month from our nation's coffers. Meanwhile, veterans and military families struggle to put food on the table and get decent housing and adequate medical care. Women and men who risked their lives for this country are often forced to fight tooth and nail to get health care from an underfunded and overburdened Veterans Administration. Hundreds of thousands of veterans are homeless.
The occupation of Iraq is the source of the violence not the solution. Living under occupation the people of Iraq are held back from taking control of their own lives to determine their destiny. The continued U.S. military presence there is a cause of the violence they face, not its solution. U.S. continued interference contradicts the principles of democracy and self-determination our country was founded on.
IVAW, MFSO and VFP will continue to keep pressure on Congress and the President to bring all our troops home from Iraq NOW, ensure that veterans receive the care they need and deserve, and that the U.S. provides resources to rebuild a country we destroyed. But we cannot do that alone. We need your help to reach out to the vast majority of the American people who are completely isolated from the realities of this war. Please don't abandon this struggle or shift your position before the occupation is over and our veterans and the Iraqi people are on the path to healing.
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) was founded by Iraq war veterans in July 2004 at the annual convention of Veterans for Peace (VFP) in Boston to give a voice to the large number of active duty service people and veterans who are against this war, but are under various pressures to remain silent. From its inception, IVAW has called for: Immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces in Iraq; reparations for the human and structural damages Iraq has suffered, and stopping the corporate pillaging of Iraq so that their people can control their own lives and future; and dull benefits, adequate healthcare (including mental health), and other supports for returning servicemen and women. IVAW's membership includes recent veterans and active duty servicemen and women from all branches of military service, National Guard members, and reservists who have served in the United States military since September 11, 2001.
Military Families Speak Out is an organization of people opposed to the war in Iraq who have relatives or loved ones who are currently in the military or who have served in the military since the buildup to the Iraq war in the fall of 2002. Formed by two families in November of 2002, MFSO now has over 4,000 member families. MFSO's national chapter, Gold Star Families Speak Out includes families whose loved ones have died as a result of the war in Iraq.
Founded in 1985, Veterans for Peace is a national organization of men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations spanning the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts cold or hot. It has chapters in nearly every state in the union and is headquartered in St. Louis, MO. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary. Veterans For Peace is an official Non- Governmental Organization (NGO) represented at the U.N.

The above joint statement is from Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out and Veterans for Peace. You can find it here at IVAW. We're opening with that because it's an important statement and it's far more than print journalism can muster.

The New York Times can't offer an article filed from Iraq -- despite all the millions spent to keep reporters for the paper in the Baghdad compound. Despite it being the sixth anniversary of the start of the illegal war. Despite the fact that the 'savior' of the paper is only now learning of new economic problems with the not-quite-bookeper-of-record.

Online, you can find Jennifer Mascia and Jason Grant's "A Day of Protests, Against Iraq War and A.I.G." which does not reflect at all the reports I've heard of the protest and which further demonstrates how unimportant online is to the New York Times. The whole news industry is striving to move online. The paper's not concerned with even basic facts that appear online. Not only do they bungle the protest, they also refer to "Sonsara Taylor" -- that would be Sunsara Taylor. The only section that checks out with accounts that have been relayed to me is this section:

Matthis Chiroux, a 25-year-old Army veteran from Alabama who said he has served in Germany, Japan and Afghanistan, but faced disciplinary proceedings because he refused to serve in Iraq, expressed impatience with the new president.
"Obama's policies just confirmed to me that the president may have changed, but the war is the same," Mr. Chiroux said. "Just because we have a black president now, doesn't mean that we don't have a racist war."

Some version of the above may make the NYC edition. The national edition skips it and offers in the print "City Beat" ("City Beat" is the NYT blog the above appears at online) a 'pressing' story on taverns. Iraq does pop up on A25 -- mainly to indicate that there's no fact checking for the print version either. Jason Campbell, Mikey O'Hanlon, Jeremy Shapiro and Amy Unikewicz serve up "The States of Iraq and Afghanistan" because yesterday was the sixth anniversary of the start of the illegal war in Iraq and in Afghanistan. What's that? It wasn't the anniversary of the start of the Afghanistan War? Oh. Well can't expect Brookings' Mental Midgets to know too much, now can you? The column is a chart -- meaning not a lot of text had to be offered but it's Brookings so you know they screwed that up as well:

As President Obama looks to reduce the number of troops in Iraq -- and the Baghdad government has achieved 7 of the 11 "Iraq index" benchmarks we have laid out, which include steps like establishing provincial election laws and enacting pension and amnesty laws -- the situation in Afghani . . .

Stop it. That's all we need. They're liars and they're damn liars. The "Iraq index" is the benchmarks. Success is measured by them being carried out. There has been little improvement and that is why the 'surge' is judged a failure. Even on the provincial elections, the Brookings Idiots want you to be so stupid you assumed that Iraq's 18 provinces held provincial elections. That did not happen. January 31st, 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces held elections. And, no, there was no exception to the benchmark. Later this spring, the Kurdish region should hold provincial elections -- should. It may change. The KRG is in tremendous political upheaval right now and for Iraq's security or 'security' that couldn't happen at a worse time. It's amazing that the think-tankers of Brookings don't know a word about that. (Or more likely, don't care to share.) And if the KRG holds their provincial elections, Kirkuk is still left out and, note, the benchmarks made no exception for Kirkuk. It didn't say, "Everywhere but Kirkuk." (For those scoring with the home version, benchmark five covers provincial elections.)

We could explain how the 'pension laws' is wrong as well but I don't intend to waste my entire morning on Brookings. We will note "wrong." Not difference of opinion, wrong. This is not, "Brookings likes what's been done but C.I. doesn't!" This is, "The benchmark says X will be done and X wasn't done."

Anthony Shadid gets credit for covering Iraq, loses it for failing to make clear that there are 18 provinces in Iraq and 18 provinces did not hold elections January 31st. Panning for gold (and holding our nose as his presses his into Nouri al-Maliki's crotch), we can extract this from "New Alliances In Iraq Cross Sectarian Lines" (Washington Post):

Forgoing the slogans of his Islamist past for a platform of law and order, his party won a majority of seats on the council in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, and emerged as the single biggest bloc in Baghdad and four other provinces in the south, which has a Shiite Muslim majority. In most provinces, though, his party must make coalitions if it hopes to help determine who will fill the governorship and other key provincial positions.
Saleh al-Mutlak, a leading secular Sunni Arab politician known for his nationalism and strident opposition to the U.S. occupation, said his supporters will ally with Maliki in four provinces: Diyala, Salahuddin, Baghdad and Babil. Mutlak heads the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, but his supporters ran under different labels in provincial contests. Mutlak said Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister who led a secular list in the campaign, will also join the alliances.
The convergence of their interests is a stark contrast to the alliances that followed elections in 2005, which Sunni Arabs largely boycotted. Their refusal to vote gave religious Shiites and Kurds disproportionate power in provinces such as Baghdad, Diyala and Nineveh, all with substantial Sunni populations. In predominantly Shiite southern Iraq and Sunni western Iraq, power coalesced around ostensibly religious parties, whose members built their appeal on clandestine organizations in exile, underground networks under Hussein, support from Iran and other neighbors and, occasionally, the end of a militiaman's gun.

If you need something more in depth, refer to Hayder Al-Khoei's "Strange Bedfellows" (Eye Raki) from last month:

It is precisely this weird dynamic nature of Iraqi politics, I think, that makes Iraq such an interesting subject for foreign scholars. For some Iraqis its just downright funny. The Iraqi Army, on direct orders from its Commander-in-Chief, spent three months last year fighting, and more importantly defeating, the "outlaws" (a fancy name Maliki decided to give the Sadrist Mehdi Army) in Basra, Baghdad and Amara but now the Sadrists are willing to form coalitions in the south just for the sake of seeing Hakim on the losing side. Allawi who was given harsh treatment, to put gently, by Hakim's followers has suddenly decided it would be a good thing to work with Hakim.
Perhaps these rounds of negotiations show that rivalry between the Sadrists and Hakims has previously been underestimated. It is true that the Mehdi Army has clashed with the Badr Brigade on previous occasions, most spectacularly in Kerbala when the Sadrists tried to take over the shrines, but these clashes could be seen as petty when compared to the battle, or rather war, that raged between Maliki and Sadr's Mehdi Army.
When the Mehdi Army burnt down the offices of Badr and Hakim across Iraq the Badr gunmen inside the buildings were given strict orders to evacuate and offer no resistance. The rivalry between Sadr and Hakim must now be so bitter that Sadr prefers to join Maliki, the man who destroyed the Mehdi Army, and ignore Hakim, the man who has shown restraint and caution towards the Mehdi Army.
Although the Sadrists were beaten by Hakim in some of the southern provinces they will be able to effectively marginalise SIIC once they complete the deal with Maliki. It will be back to the drawing board for Hakim and rumours are already spreading about plans to undercut the local provinces with social welfare programmes. Also the $2.4 billion allocated to the provincial authorities will need to be cleared through the Finance Ministry, which is controlled by SIIC.
Maliki and Sadr will need to be careful to make sure they do not step on SIIC's toes because no one knows what will happen if they are pushed into a corner. There is fresh talk of assassinations and newly discovered "Nejadiyat" (named after the Iranian President) IED's in Najaf and the last thing anyone, not least Maliki himself, needs is bloodshed. Although that is highly unlikely to be the work of the high ranking officials in SIIC the fear is from rogue elements in the party and disgruntled players who may not necessarily take their orders from Baghdad.

Iraq is supposed to hold Parliamentary elections in December. They have yet to make an initial deadline for voting so December's elections may be postponed. Barack Obama promised one brigade a month withdrawn from Iraq when he was trying to pretend he gave a damn about ending the illegal war. He got the nomination and dropped that. He also began lying that he said he always insisted that he would listen to commanders on the ground. He continues that lie to this day.

As Ava and I noted March 1st of Barack's reinvention and continued damned lie, that's not what he said. What he said was he would determine the withdrawal and the rate of it. He would allow the commanders to offer input on how to execute it. He said withdrawal (and the rate) was the mission and the commander-in-chief sets the mission. (He was largely spitting back Hillary's words. This was in their final debate and, as usual, Hillary had answered first so Barack stole her words.) Read Hillary's response before, read Charlie's question, read Barack's response. Then marvel over how the Christ-child nevr gets called out.

[C.I. note added: Barack's long delay in starting the drawdown is due to the elections. That's the connection between the two above.]

Iraq War milestones and Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reports on the unemployment rate for veterans:

The economic downturn is hitting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans harder than other workers -- one in nine are now out of work -- and may be encouraging some troops to remain in the service, according to Labor Department records and military officials.
The 11.2% jobless rate for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who are 18 and older rose 4 percentage points in the past year. That's significantly higher than the corresponding 8.8% rate for non-veterans in the same age group, says Labor Department economist Jim Walker.
Army records show the service has hit 152% of its re-enlistment goal this year. "Obviously the economy plays a big role in people's decisions," says Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, an Army spokesman.

At The Christian Science Monitor, Howard LaFranchi offers "Six years in Iraq: three American stories:"

When Ms. Naar-Obed returned from Iraq in 2004, she brought with her news that would shake America and the world – reports from Iraqis of abuse in the US detention facility in Abu Ghraib.
"My hope was that whatever pressure I could bring to bear, either [in Iraq] or by speaking out about it when I was back home, would help put an end to the abuses we were hearing about," says Naar-Obed, who has spent several months of every year since 2002 in Iraq.
Once again in Iraq, Naar-Obed is impressed not by any progress she sees, but by the challenges Iraq still faces. Iraq’s sectarian tensions eased when ethnic cleansing led to migration and segregation. But the underlying tensions among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds remain.
"There may be a current marked reduction in violent acts [because of the new segregation of sectarian populations], but there has been little in the way of political or personal reconciliation," she says by phone and e-mail.
Currently in the Kurdish north, she says she senses "great fear and concern about what will happen when the walls that physically separate people come down, and when the forces that keep those walls erected leave."

We noted the Grannies Peace Brigade's press release last night and will note it again here:

Relax, everyone! The New York City police are solidly on the job these days. With rapists, murderers, bank robbers and dope peddlers, not to mention corporate thieves, rampant throughout the City, they made a significant dent in the crime statistics yesterday, March 18, when they arrested seven grandmothers aged 67 to 90 in Times Square.
Grannies being herded into a paddy wagon after arrest March 18, 2009 (photo by Eva-Lee Baird)
The grannies, all members of the Granny Peace Brigade, were sent to jail while protesting at the Times Square recruiting station. Their arrest occurred during what is believed to be the first antiwar protest of the Obama Administration, in an attempt to urge the President to reconsider his decision to retain 50,000 troops in Iraq after the official withdrawal scheduled to be completed in the next 18 months and his order for 17,000 more troops sent to Afghanistan. The women feel strongly that these measures will only result in increased death and destruction for Americans, Iraqis and Afghanis and further solidify anti-American feeling throughout the world. Said 94-year-old Brigadier Marie Runyon, "Peace can only be achieved through diplomacy and humanitarian aid." The Granny Peace Brigade women are mostly strong supporters of Barack Obama but were responding to his request that his constituency pressure him to do the right thing when they feel he is on the wrong path.
The Brigade is not new to demonstrating at the Times Square recruiting station -- eighteen of the grannies were arrested and jailed on Oct. 17, 2005, when they attempted to enlist in the military to replace America's grandchildren in harm's way in Iraq. After a six-day trial in criminal court, they were acquitted.
The seven grannies were arrested at approximately 1:45 p.m. and taken to the Midtown South police precinct. They were not all released until early the next morning, a total of approximately 12 hours. Some of them became shaky and weak after many hours of not eating, but were given no food for another hour and a half.
Prior to the arrest, about 50 grannies and their supporters gathered on Military Island at which a press conference was held including speeches by mayoral candidate Rev. Billy, legendary Broadway actress and activist Vinie Burrows (one of the original 18 granny jailbirds), and a young member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Matthis Chiroux. A sister group, the Raging Grannies, performed some of their original anti-war songs.
During the press conference, grandmothers wrapped yellow police crime scene tape around the ramp near the recruiting center, after which a group, some in wheelchairs and hanging on to walkers, assembled on the ramp leading to the center.
crime scene in Times Square (photo by Masahiro Hosoda)
The team of Norman Siegel and Earl Ward, who successfully defended the grannies in 2005, will represent them in their current case, for which the grandmothers are profoundly grateful. Siegel, currently a candidate for New York City Public Advocate, is a favorite of the ladies for his continuous support of them.

The Kurdistan Regional Government notes:

President Barzani meets EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Brussels

Brussels, Belgium ( - As part of an extensive European tour, Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani visited Brussels on Wednesday. During his one-day visit, Mr Barzani met Mr Javier Solana, the European Union's High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

The President and Mr Solana exchanged views on the latest developments in Iraq and on issues of particular interest to the Kurdistan Region. President Barzani expressed his appreciation for the European Union’s commitment to a federal and democratic Iraq and urged the EU to encourage trade and investment in the Kurdistan Region as a gateway to all of the country.

Earlier in the day President Barzani welcomed a delegation of the Iraqi federal parliament and met Iraq's ambassador to Belgium.

The President’s visit to Brussels and his European tour are part of the Kurdistan Region’s efforts to encourage international support for Iraq’s political process and to attract foreign investment to the Kurdistan Region. Earlier this month he visited Italy, the Vatican, Germany and the UK.

Dr Fuad Hussein, Chief of Staff of the Kurdistan Region Presidency, and Mr Burhan Jaf, Head of the KRG Mission to the EU, were part of the President’s delegation in Brussels.

Community sites that updated last night is an issue in the e-mails:

That's how it reads at Isaiah and Stan's blogs. A number of you are asking why Marcia didn't write? First, she's more than welcome to take a night off. Some of you note that she did write last night. Her post is "Dumb F**k Danny Sphincter and more" and it went up at her usual time (or around the usual time). Isaiah and Stan are not 'blocking' her post. That's a Blogger/Blogspot issue and Ruth and Marcia both noted the problems with Blogger/Blogspot last night. Recapping, Marcia doesn't have to blog anytime she doesn't want to or doesn't have the time, Marcia did blog last night, Isaiah and Stan are not 'censoring' her by refusing to list her post.

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oh boy it never ends