Tuesday, April 7, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Barack makes a Bully Boy visit to Iraq, the White House is ignorant of military jargon, in the US veterans deal with the possibility that VA hospitals have infected them with HIV, San Francisco wants action on the murders of Iraqi gay men, Talabani says there are assassination plots, and more.
Hit is Stevie Nicks:
She is like a cat in the dark
And then she is the darkness
She rules her life like a fine skylark
And when the sky is starless
Barack hand-holder Jeff Zeleny (New York Times) isn't again whining about Barry referring to Muslim roots/ties (as usual, Barry was really saying nothing to invert the old girl group song) but how when Jeffy did it there was fallout. No, all is happy in Vaselineville and the paper even handed him a box of tissues allowing him to blog that Barack made a surprise trip to Baghdad. The official White House transcript (remember, under Barry these transcripts are often 'incomplete' and/or 'improved on') paints a horrific scene where Barry addresses service men and women assembled as "guys" and an audience member (apparently unaware of what it means to wear a uniform) gushes, "We love you!" Barack replies, "I love you back." The military is now screaming, "I love you" at a president? And a president of the United States mistakes appearing before the military with a night at the Grammys? Eisenhower would have been embarrassed but then Eisenhower could point to many ways he actually served his country. Barack's got a traveling White House crew who has also never served -- well never served anything that didn't come in a frosted glass. Which is how "Ooh-ah" ends up in the transcript. Did the soft-handed White House fools believe Diana, Mary and Cindy were present and about to perform "Baby Love"? Do the soft-handed White House fools have no idea of military jargon? Do they just want to confess to the whole world how little they value the military? Yes, yes and, apparently, yes. "Ooh-ah." What fools, what ignorant, pampered fools. (Click here if you're also in the dark.)
Our Church Of Latter Day Evita uttered "I" nineteen times which might be shocking, however, it should have been twenty times. The One Let Into Harvard As A Legacy never mastered English which is why he ended up stating "that Michelle and myself are doing everything" -- he meant "I."
Barry tossed out the same hokum Bully Boy Bush used to. Regarding Iraq and Iraqis ("they" as he so enjoyed putting it), Barack declared, "It is time for us to transition to the Iraqis. They need to take responsibility for their country and for their soveriengty." They need to? Have they been slacking? Has the US been stuck in Iraq this entire time because those slackers wanted the US to stay? That's certainly how he made it sound. He continued, "And in order for them to do that [take responsibility], they have got to make political accomodations." They HAVE? His poor grammer is always problematic; however, here it's not only offenisve, it seems to allow him more wiggle room. Translation, in a few months he can declare, "The US has to remain because they [Iraq] didn't live up to their end."
"They're going to have to decide that they want to resolve their differences through constitutional means and legal means," declared the Infant Obama, apparently unaware that "they" did not install the Shi'ite thugs, the US did. Apparently unaware that when the US finally does leave, there will be a serious challenge to the the US hand-picked exiles installed into power.
"They are going to have to focus on providing government services that encourage confidence among their citizens," Barack insisted. "All those things they have to do. We can't do it for them." Then why the hell is the US still in Iraq? That of course was the question that lingered over the hopium. It was no different than anything Bully Boy Bush would have said and frequently did say. It's the same speech we've heard year after year. So why is the US still in Iraq? There's no reason for them to be. But you can almost hear this same speech, given repeatedly over the last six years, trotted out in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 . . .
Why are US forces still in Iraq? Compare Barack's words with the column the UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband wrote for The New Statesman but grasp that Miliband is citing these things as reasons why the UK is drawing down over the next four months (leaving behind approximately 400 troops). Nothing ever changes, no it doesn't. Which was the point of opening with the Stevie Nicks song "Rhiannon" (reminder, Fleetwood Mac is on tour currently): Just like Bush, Barack had to sneak into Iraq. Robert Hendin (CBS News) explains how secretive the White House was:
Usually, the White House press leaves a location a few hours after the president does. After the press was told that our departure from Istanbul was delayed a few hours, this after the president took off from here, supposedly to go home, reporters grew even more suspicious.
Many here tried to figure out how long the flight was from Istanbul to Baghdad or Kabul in Afghanistan so we could get a sense of how long the president would be flying before anyone on Air Force One could call and tell us where they were. After two and a half hours of flight time, the tension in the press filing center in Istanbul was intense. No one knew where Mr. Obama was going, when he would get there and what was going to happen to us. When would we leave Istanbul and would we have enough time to file reports?
Then, in a flash, a White House press aide came running through the filing center, screaming "the pool report is out!!" He was referring to a print pool report filed by Richard Wolf of USA TODAY, who drew the rotation of being the print pool reporter for the day.
Wolf's report said it all: "Air Force One landed at Baghdad Intl Airport at 4:42."
This CBS and AP report contains an audio link to Barack's speech (and Hendin's report contains a link to CBS' Chip Reid's audio report of the trip to Baghdad). Steven Lee Myers and Helene Cooper (New York Times) report on the "unnaounced trip" and they offer what the "Associated Press reported" on a meeting between Nouri al-Maliki and Barack that the paper was apparently shut out of. They state, 'Air Force One landed at Baghdad International Airport under heavy security at 4:42 in the afternoone after military officials shut down the airport." From which he was whisked to US base Camp Victory which Myers and Cooper hilariously describe as being "near the Baghdad International Airport." Near? Let's get even more specific. As Friends Committee On National Legislation explains, "Camp Victory is a U.S. Army base situated on airport grounds about 5 kilometers from Baghdad from Baghdad International Airport. The base can house up to 14,000 troops. Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory is surrounded by a man-made lake and serves as an unofficial conference center for the Army." Click here for Google maps image (satellite). The US Justice Dept has explained it this way (Dec. 22, 2008), "Camp Victory is the primary component of the Victory Base Complex, which occupies the area surrounding the Baghdad International Airport." Ernesto London, Michael D. Shear and William Branigin (Washington Post) cover the "unnannounced trip" and the applause getter of his speech, noting Barack "drew wild cheers from U.S. troops when he declared that it was time for Iraqis to 'take responsibility for their country'." Please note the Washington Post knows the difference between a Supreme's chorus and an army exclamation. Unlike Myers and the Bobble Headed Pundit, the Post explains that Barack spoke at al-Faw Palace and that it "was built by former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and was captured by U.S. forces when they seized Baghdad and ousted Hussein from power." It really takes a lot of nerve for any foreign leader to go to Iraq and stand on the grounds of one of the country's palaces while insisting that Iraqis need to take responsibility for their country. He wasn't able to stand in front of as many photo-opped troops as the White House wanted. Leila Fadel and Steven Thomma (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Commanders had hoped to have 1,500 troops there to meet the commnader in chief but were unable to gather them in time . . . Weather prevented Obama from taking a helicopter to visit Maliki and President Jalal Talabani as he'd hoped, aides said. Maliki traveled to the camp instead." The Post notes Talabani also traveled to meet the 'visiting' Barack. (Visitors, for those not up on etiquette, traditionally travel to the host.) At the US State Dept, Robert Wood was spinning like he hadn't done since his spokesperson days during the Bush administration. Asked about a story that Barack was speaking with Nouri over the phone instead of in person, Wood replied, "No, my understanding is that he had to speak with Maliki by telephone because apparently there were some wet climate conditions . . . ["Dust" was supplied to him] Dust and what have you." Wood was then corrected that Nouri and Barack met face to face and tried to glide over that by stating, "Oh, okay. You got a futher update than I have." In a move that did not save face, Wood then went on to insist:
So, look, violence in Iraq, I think, overall has been on the decline. You're going to see terrorists continuing to try to disrupt the functioning of the Iraqi government. What's importat is that we help Iraqis to be able to help themselves and provide their own security and help give the people of Iraq hope. And you know, as I said, violence in Iraq overall has been on the decline. And the Iraqi government, with our help and the help of others in the international community, is going to -- We're gong to do what we can to try to give the Iraqi people a much better future, something that they so truly deserve.
Where to begin? January saw a decrease in violence. That was months ago. A trend requires multiple months. February saw an increase in violence from January. March saw one from February. The trend is an increase in violence. Wood is incorrect. Help them help themselves? Is that the logic? So the US is trying to play the victim here and paint itself as a co-dependent enabler? As for "international community," Wood stopped himself when he seemed to grasp, everyone is gone or going. It is just the US now.
Like a cat in the dark or a thief in the night, Barack traveled to Iraq. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports the stop-over lasted five hours. Hopefully, that is correct. The number she gives for US troops present is wrong. We hear endlessly how 'safe' Iraq is yet time and again, the Oval Office occupant cannot travel to Iraq without secrecy. Though the photo op was supposed to be feel good, the reality is that nothing's changed. One up to Barack's visit is Iraq will now make the evening news. As noted this morning, The NewsHour (PBS) did manage to at least mention the bombings. Gwen Ifill: "In Iraq, a string of six bombings tore through Shia nieghborhoods in Baghdad. Iraqi police reported at least 37 people were killed and more than 100 wounded. The blast sites were littered with mangled wreckage and burned out cars. The deadliest attack happened at a busy market in the western part of Baghdad." ABC, CBS and NBC? Too busy with fluff. (CBS offered a lengthy advertisement for a candy store and then, after, helpfully explained, "By the way the owners of that desert bar alerted us to that bright spot in the economy.") 37 dead and one hundred wounded from a series of bombings in Baghdad and ABC, CBS and NBC didn't think that was news. They had so much more 'important' things to cover. They should all be ashamed. But today, watch them pretend interest in Iraq . . . at least until the commercial break. Shameful. Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) offers a kinder assessment (than mine) of Barack's for-show visit, "Take responsibility for your country, President Obama lectures. Likely Iraqi response: Thanks for your interest. The next 18 months are 'critical,' Mr. Obama says. Alas, they always are in Iraq. It all feels depressingly like the Bush administration." Ricks is the author of the new bestseller The Gamble.
Those with thirty seconds to fill prior to the commercial break may toss in Muntadar al-Zaidi. al-Zaidi is the Iraqi journalist who found international fame when Bully Boy Bush was making his December 14th secret trip to Baghdad. At the press conference, al-Zaidi threw both of his shoes at Bush. March 12th Muntadhar was sentenced to three years. Today brings news of a sentence reduction. BBC reports that the sentence has been dropped to one year. Aseel Kami (Reuters) quotes the judiciary spokesperson Abdul Sattar al-Birqdar stating, "The appeal court issued its decision today to decrease the sentence against Muntazer al-Zaidi from three years in prison to one year, taking into consideration that he's still young and doesn't have any previous convictions." Or maybe the anchors will use that time to note Monday's violence?
Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president, appears alarmed by the visible increase in violence as evidence by his statement that Iraq's security forces need to make "rapid steps" because, according to Talabani, there are plots "to carry out assassinations on leading politicians" and he is quoted stating, "We warn all, and call on all Iraqis to support national unity and confront anyone trying to ignite sectarian conflict in Iraq." But isn't it a bit hard to call on unity when Nouri's targeting Sunnis? Isn't that a bit weak assed and pathetic? While Sahwa's hit in the face with a two-by-four repeatedly, Talabani wants to ask them to chant "Unity"? The president of a country has stated publicly that assassinations are being planned on politicians. How much coverage will this receive from the press? And who are the politicians? With Talabani having stated he won't run for re-election (his term is up in December), it's hard to believe he'd top the targeted list. But resentment at Kurds or the office of the presidency could put him on a list of targets. If the press covers this, it will be interesting to see if anyone presses for a list of alleged targets.
Over the weekend (see yesterday's snapshot) came news of seven brutal murders. KTVU (link has text and video) reports on San Francisco's Board of Supervisors decision to adopt "a resolution supporting gay rights in Iraq".
Deborah Villalon: Well Ken [Wayne], it's been described as "Don't Ask, Just Kill." International observers say any new found stability in Iraq does note extend to gays and lesbians. In fact their plight has worsened with the rise of religious militias and the bodies of two men found shot to death over the weekend.
Supervisor Bevan Duffy: Six gay men murdered with words put on their dead bodies to vilify them.
Deborah Villalon: The word "pervert" in Arabic was written on the Iraqi victims leaving no doubt why they were targeted and triggering outrage among local gay leaders. At the corner of Castro and Market Street, they dubbed this spot "Tomb of the Unknown Gay" for the dead men.
Bevan Duffy: This is the beginning of what could be untold slaughter of innocent people. Tribal councils basically put out death sentences to people. I mean that is certainly far afield to anything related to democracy.
Deborah Villalon: Human rights group have documented the persecution of gays in Iraq counting at least 400 murders in the past several years -- at least that they know about. In recent weeks, religious clerics condemnded homosexuality from their pulpits, triggering a new wave of violence.
Gary Virginia: I think people around the world can all go to their political leaders and demand an inquiry to find out who these six men were who were murdered and for what reason and hold somebody accountable for it.
Lyanne Melendez (San Francisco's KGO -- link has text and video) adds, "Gay leaders in San Francisco hope Monday's small rally and others around the world, will send a message around the world that these killings will not be tolerated."
Superviser Bevan Duffy made the motion in this morning's meeting and it will be introduced in Thursday's meeting. If passed, it would call for an investigation into the murders as well as for a public statement condemning them. This would be the White House, the US State Dept and the Congress. This is needed. It's not binding in that the White House, et al can ignore it. But we all need to grasp that the United Nations and specifically UNHCR regularly condemns murders of Iraqis. For example, if a politician or Christian is murdered, the UN or one of its bodies will issue a statement condemning it. But there's been no statement from them. There's been no statement from any governing body. These killings have been going on forever and they've never been called out. Our State Dept has never called them out and today's briefing -- not one question about the murders.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports a Baghdad car bombing today which has claimed at least 9 people and left at least eighteen injured. Aseel Kami, Tim Cocks, Abdul-Rahman Taher, Tim Cocks and Michael Christie (Reuters) add an intriguing note in the speculation over who's responsible for the recent bombings: "But a senior Iraqi intelligence source, who declined to be named, said there was evidence the bombs could be the work of the militant Badr Organisation, the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI). ISCI is allied to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Dawa party in parliament, but the two have become somewhat estranged." Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad grenade attack which destroyed a store and notes a taxi cab bomber who "targeted the motorcade of Saad Abu Qutaiba, a high ranking member in the Support councils" left Abu Qutaiba wounded and claimed the life of 1 police officer leaving eight people wounded (four were members of the police).
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Falah Mohammed Younis (just "elected to lead the local government" was shot dead in Mosul last night.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the corpse of Sahwa member Mohammed al Janabi was discovered in Iskanderiya ("evidence of torture" and "shot many times") -- Sahwa is the term for "Awakening" Council members.
While Barack pranced and preened yet again for the cameras today, back in the US veterans continued to wait for care. Jason Whitely (WFAA, ABC station in Dallas, owned be Belo -- link has text and video) reports on Steven Farmer, in Baghdad April 9, 2003 now home with Planters Fasicitis a condition reuslitng "from wearing an drunning boots" requiring him to use a cane for the last few weeks and being told that it will be a year to eighteen months before he can get surgery. Famer tells Whitely, "When they asked me to go to Iraq, I didn't ask them to hold on. I packed up, said goodby to my family and friends and I was off serving my country. Now, it's time for me to get help with my problems so I can go on and live my life and they're telling me to hold on." And Whitely reports that many other veterans requiring surgery are being told that non-emergency surgeries will wait and wait. WFAA's report resulted in Steven Farmer being moved up the list but the others will remain waiting. And yet Barack wanted to his end for-show speech today declaring, "The main point I want to make is we have not forgotten what you have already done, we are grateful for what you will do, and as long as I am in the White House, you are going to get the support that you need and the thanks that you deserve from a grateful nation." Of course, technically Princess Tiny Meat wasn't at the White House. He was finishing up his Oh Come Let Us Adore Me Tour. Jennifer Pifer-Bixler (CNN -- link has text and video) reports, "The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched an investigation into whether there is connection between improperly sterilized endoscopy equipment and a veteran's postive HIV test. This comes after more than 10,000 veterans were possibley exposed to HIV and hepatitis at three VA facilities while undergoing colonoscopies and other procedures with equipment that had not been properly cleaned. The VA sent letters to those veterans offering free testing for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV." Free testing, oh that's good. We'd hate to think the VA would charge veterans to see whether or not the VA had infected them. It takes a lot of gall to grandstand in front of US troops today with that news out there.
In legal news, yesterday's snapshot noted jury selection for USA v. Steven D. Green began yesterday. Rebecca caught some interesting items including Alsumaria:
The selection of the jury panel in the trial of US soldier Steven Green has started today. Green has raided with four others the house of Abir Qassem Hamza Al Jinabi and raped the girl while they killed her family and set the house afire to hide their crimes. The soldier believed to have led the group is sentenced to death. Four soldiers involved in this incident were sentenced in March 2006. The conjunctures of the incident were uncovered during the soldiers' trial.
As Rebecca pointed out, that might be more of a desire (an understandable one) since Green is not yet sentenced to anything. A desire was expressed by one Iraqi politician. 3news.co.nz reports Jabir al-Hamdani has called for the death sentence for Green if Green is convcited.