Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday April 15, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, the US taxpayer foots the bill for what exactly, provincial councils in disarray, and more.
Starting with costs, last week Barack asked for more money from Congress. On Saturday, Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) revealed that Barack's request "would mean the Iraq war will have cost taxpayers a total of about $694 billion.  By comparison, the Vietnam War cost $686 billion in inflated-adjusted dollars and World War II cost $4.1 trillion, according to a Congressional Research Service study completed last year."  Last night, Mike noted Kenneth Theisen (World Can't Wait) on how Barack's claiming that "Nearly 95 percent of these funds will be used to support our men and women in uniform as they help the people of Iraq to take responsibility for their own future". Citing AP, Philip Sherwell (Telegraph of London) offered the following breakdown of Barack's $83.4 billion request: "The request would fund an average force level in Iraq of 140,000 US troops, finance Mr Obama's initiatve to boost troop levels in Afghanistan to more than 60,000 from the current 39,000 and provide $2.2 billion to accelerate the Pentagon's plans to increase the overall size of the US military . . . Mr Obama also requested $350 million in new funding to upgrade security along the US-Mexico border and to combat narcoterrorists, along with another $400 million in counterinsurgency aid to Pakistan." Julian E. Barnes broke it down as inclduing "$75.8 billion for military operations.  An additional $7.1 billion will go to diplomatic efforts and foreign aid, including $1.6 billion for Afghanistan, $1.4 billion for Pakistan and $700 million for Iraq."  Mary Beth Sheridan and Scott Wilson (Washington Post) offer a breakdown hereDeidre Walsh (CNN) observes, "About $75 billion of the latest request would pay for military operations, including $9.8 billion for body armor and protective vehicles and $11.6 billion to replace worn-out equipment.  The rest would go to diplomatic programs and development aid -- including $1.6 billion for Afghanistan, $1.4 billion for Pakistan and $700 million for Iraq." Walsh lists $800 million going "to support U.N. peacekeeping missions in Africa" and another $800 million to the Palestinian Authority.  And, by the way, Walsh cites 142,000 US service members on the ground in Iraq.  "By the way" because so many outlets have been following the request of the White House -- but not the Defense Dept -- when first rule of a free press is that you don't take orders from any governmental body.  But a free press doesn't reprint "nearly 95%" without pointing out that either Barack needs a math tutor or he's lying yet again.
A lot of money's being given away by the US to other countries and, thank goodness, the US economic crisis is over.  Oh, it's not?  No, it isn't.  Carolyn Lochhead (San Francisco Chronicle) quoted US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stating, "In the coming weeks, Congress will carefully review the president's request and will engage in a dialogue with the Administration on appropriate benchmarks to measure the success of our investments."
Lochhead quoted US House Rep Lynn Woolsey explaining, "As proposed, this funding will do two things -- it will prolong our occupation of Iraq through at least the end of 2011 and it will deepend and expand our military presence in Afghanistan indefinitely.  I cannot support either of these scenarios.  Instead of attempting to find military solutions to the problems we face in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama must fundamentally change the mission in both countries to focus on promoting reconciliation, economic development, humanitarian aid, and regional diplomatic efforts."  Woolsey is correct.  And the Congress can refuse to fund the illegal war at any moment.  If they did, the troops would have to come home.  That's not, "The troops would have to come home after Congress funded the departure."  The money is already there at the Pentagon to cover the costs of withdrawing all US forces out of Iraq.  But Barack's Big Giveaway (which will work for him about like it did for Oprah in prime time, translation, no one wants to see it) is also highly revealing.
Yes, he's a War Hawk.  Anyone paying attention during the Democratic Party primaries should have known that.  Well, not "anyone."  Professional idiots like Tom Hayden, Crazed Johnny Nichols (remember how he just knew that Barack lying on NAFTA was a 'Hillary plot' and he went to Canada to prove that and bragged on air to Amy Goodman that he'd be writing about that . . . but never did because his crackpot theories didn't pan out even though he allowed them to poison the dialogue), Laura Flanders and all the beggar trash that can't get real jobs were fooled because they wanted to be.  But in the real world, most of us could figure it out.  For example, today Kenneth J. Moynihan (Worcester Telegram) reminds why US House Rep Jim McGovern supported Hillary Clinton:  "During the 2008 presidential election campaign it came as no surprise to observers of the Worcester political scene that U.S. Rep James P. McGovern should declare his support for Sen. Hillary Clinton.  The congressman is a friend of Hillary and Bill, and he supported Sen. Clinton for many reasons.  However, when asked about his choice, he usually began with the same words, 'She will end the war.' . . . The congressman never flinched from the position that people wanting to vote against the war should vote for Clinton."  And they damn well should have if they were voting in the Democratic Party primary because she would have.  I believe that, I know Hillary and have known her since 1992.  But those saying "your opinion" are right except for one thing: The 'anti-war' movement would never have laid down for Hillary.  Also true, as we pointed out repeatedly at Third beginning in 2007, Hillary couldn't give the imperialists and industrialists in this country the wars they wanted in Africa.  Barack was required for that.  So voting for Barack was always voting for war and for more war.  And it's become obvious that Bully Boy Bush was replaced by Bully Boy Barack and that Obama will provide the third Bush term.
But still there's this idiotic notion that Barack's 'smarter'.  Who knows what that's based on because it's certainly not based on academic proof -- he refused to release his college transcripts.  It's not based on his alleged speaking abilities -- he stumbles and stammers and uh-uh-uh-uh his way through everything sounding like a buffoon.  But he demonstrates that he is as stupid -- if not more -- than George W. Bush with his plans of how to spend the tax payers' monies.  Like Bush, he's not really able to conceptualize.
Iraq is sending ambassadors around the world.  Find the women.  You won't.  Pelosi says we need to measure the success.  Let's measure it.  Women are worse off and gays and lesbians are under constant assault.  And yet Iraq needs the US -- or rather, the puppet government the US installed needs the US in order to stay in control.  And Nouri does not want to touch the money he's stockpiled.  That is why the Iraqi people suffer economically.  This isn't Bangladesh or any other country dubbed "third world."  Iraq has huge oil reserves.  There's no reason in the world any Iraqi should ever go hungry.  But they do because puppet Nouri really doesn't give a damn about them.  Yesterday, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (All Things Considered) reported, "Iraq is now cash-strapped due to the recent downturn in oil prices.  As a result of the drop in revenue, a government hiring freeze has been put in place, including with the country's largest employer: the Ministry of Interior.  The agency has recruited hundreds of thousands of police officers in recent years to help restore a measure of stability to the war-torn country.  As long as the price of oil stays low, the Interior Ministry simply cannot afford to hire more people." Garcia-Navarro notes that unemployment is said to be at 18% according to the United Nations.  [50% to 70% according to Dahr Jamail.] She also reported, "Despite America's own economic troubles, the US is spending $1.2 billion this year to supplement the Iraqi Interior Ministry budget." $1.2 billion?
You can buy a lot of things with $1.2 billion and when your a country giving that amount to another country, you can buy a lot of freedoms.  The Iraq War has pushed Iraq closer to Iran and, no, that was never one of the anticipated 'wins' of the illegal war.  The two countries were pushed together in part because the US installed Shi'ite fundamentalist thugs so it's no surprise that they would be close with their counterparts in Iran.  (al-Maliki, of course, fled Iraq -- the US only installs exiled cowards -- and took up residence in Iran for many of his cowering years before the US invasion allowed him to return to Iraq.)  They have many, many things in common and they will strengthen their ties as al-Maliki and his thug underlings remake Iraq into the fundamentalist state they desire.  The US could have stopped that at any time as the occupying power.  They could have made it clear that human rights abuses will not take place by rounding up the killers of Iraqi gays and lesbians.  But that would have gone counter to the get-it-done-quick motives that led the US to install a strong-man as prime minister. 
Maybe Lynn Woolsey will find other brave members of Congress to stand with her and reject even more money for illegal war.  But barring that, Pelosi needs to live up to what she most recently stated.  She needs to ensure that the Congress evaluate what is going on in Iraq and any more money given the puppet government for 'humanitarian' reasons needs to have real benchmarks such as, "X number of women will be ambassadors."  Not in a year, not in two years.  Nothing like Bush's benchmarks that were never reached.  Immediate results.  No results, the 'humanitarian' money is immediately cut off.  As US House Rep Jared Polis stated, "The United States should not tolerate human rights violations of any kind, especially by a government that Americans spend billions of taxpayer dollars each year supporting."  Why is the US funding the Ministry of the Interior -- a thug department -- which hires homophobes who go out and express their homophobia when they're supposed to be protecting ALL Iraqis?  That's not what 'humanitarian' money does.  Allegedly, the money is spent to improve lives.  So let's see some real effort by the Congress to ensure that this indeed happens.  Iraq was not Iran before the US invasion.  Bully Boy's actions pushed Iraq closer to Iran and, for all his alleged 'smartness,' there's no indication that Barack knows any better.
Iraq is a disaster, it is a US-made disaster.  No more money should be thrown to the puppet government but those foolish enough to continue tossing it should be ensuring that every dollar spent pulls Iraq away from the fundamentalist nation that al-Maliki's attempted to build.  At Foreign Policy, Marc Lynch noted, "The crackdown on the Awakenings has regional implications as well, particularly with the ever-skeptical Saudis who have generally supported the Awakenings movements.  The Arab press has taken careful note of their reversal of fortunes, which Adel al-Bayati in al-Quds al-Arabi calls Maliki's coup against the Awakenings.  Tareq al-Homayed, editor of the Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Awsat (which usually reflects official Saudi thinking), complains bitterly today that recent events have made his warnings from last August about the coming betrayal of the Awakenings come true.  The Awakenings were not bearing arms against the Iraqi state, argues Homayed, but rather were protecting the Iraqi state against al-Qaeda and assisting its stabilization ahead of the American withdrawal. But, he warns, narrow, sectarian perspectives in Baghdad are winning out over the Iraqi national interest with potentially devastating consequences."  Marc Lynch shouldn't be alone in pointing that out, the White House should have already figured that out.  (Figured it out?  They should have anticipated it.)  There's nothing to indicate that they have or that they've made adjustments.  Or demands and, again, when you're the country handing over $1.2 billion, you can make a lot of demands. While the puppet government attempts to appear cash-strapped, AFP reports reality, "Iraq has signed a contract with British engineering and construction company Foster Wheeler to build the country's largest-ever oil refinery, an Iraqi official said on Wednesday."  Meanwhile Pakistan's Daily Times reports "Iraqi authorities are currently holding about 26,200 people in detention, including 782 minors and 422 women, Human Rights Minister Wejdan Mikhail said on Wednesday." The paper notes US forces are currently holding 12,800 Iraqi prisoners.
Returning to the topic of Sahwa (also known as "Awakening" Councils and "Sons of Iraq"), Geoff Ziezulewicz (Stars and Strips) files a report today indicating the US is still paying some and focuses on Fadhil.  That's the neighborhood of Baghdad where Nouri's crackdown on Sahwa led to a stand off between Sahwa members on one side and Iraqi and US forces on the other.  Ziezulewicz reports, "The fact that Fadhil remains up for grabs makes continued support of the Iraqi government's efforts that much more critical, said Lt. Col. David Buckingham, commander of the cavalry regiment, part of the 82nd Airborne."  The fact that Nouri al-Maliki has not put more on the payroll, found jobs for more Sahwa goes to the fact that he's taking US dollars from US tax payers and getting to do with it whatever the heck he wants.  It's past time for real Congressional oversight.  Elsewhere in the article,  Ziezulewicz also notes, "While the U.S. military has trumpeted Iraqi forces taking the lead since the U.S.-Iraq security agreement went into effect Jan. 1, Iraqi troops were largely absent or showed up late to some missions last week."  Meanwhile Nouri's mouthpiece on the presidency council, Shi'ite vice president Adel Abdul Mehdi was in Paris today.  Alsumaria reports he insisted that Sahwas were "secretly plotting . . . terrorists attacks in Iraq."
Nouri's attacking the press.  The New York Times always knows how to kiss butt (what, you thought CNN was the only one just because Eason Jordan confessed to it?).  Which explains Alissa J. Rubin's report today which takes the work of the Foreign Ministry and attempts to call the puppet government a success as a result.  While the Foreign Ministry does deserve praise for some of their abilities to function, they are not representative of the puppet government nor of Iraq's population.  Rubin may note 40 other countries have ambassadors from Baghdad but she forgets to note how none are women.  This is just a kiss-their-ass piece to ensure that the Times remains on good terms with the puppet government.  (Nouri is highly upset with reports about his attacks on Sahwa.)
There is no functioning government.  For example, who is heading Iraq's Parliament? Answer: No one. They still have no speaker. So this is really an insult to the readers, this attempt to play, "Look at this functioning government!" As noted in the January 12th snapshot:

Willam Brockman Bankhead was the Speaker of the US House of Representatives for over four years. He died unexpectably of a heart attack on September 15, 1940. (For those unfamiliar with Bankhead, he was the father of Tallulah Bankhead.) The following day, Sam Rayburn became Speaker of the House. The following day. December 23rd, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was forced out of the Speakership of the Iraqi Parliament. The week prior he had stated he was resigning. He attempted to take that back but a large number wanted him gone as Speaker and had wanted him gone for some time with repeated public efforts to oust him. It is now January 12th and they have still not appointed a new Speaker.

And they still have no speaker. It's April 15th. William Bankhead dies in office and he's replaced the next day. Iraq's Parliament runs off Mahmoud al-Mashhadani December 23rd and they still have no replacement, all this time later.  Or as Alsumaria noted Saturday, "Parliament Speaker issue awaits solution."  Further indications of the dysfunction and disarray comes from Liz Sly and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) who report that the provincial councils still aren't moving along.  Januray 31st 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces held provincial elections.  The results were finally certified and officially announced in March.  And yet . . .  Sly and Ahmed explain there have been "walkouts, boycoots and street protests, highlighting continued sectarian divisions and the frictions that prevail even between those factions that are reconciled to the political process.  On Tuesday, all factions in Shiite Muslim-majority Wasit province boycotted the latest meeting called to choose a governor after street protests were held the previous day against the leading contender." Corinee Reilly and Ali Abbas (McClatchy Newspapers) report that a boycott is taking place in Nineveh Province as well where "Kurds vowed not to return until the Arabs hand over two of the council's top three leadership positions." Alsumaria explains that the Yazidi majority from the Sinjar District of Nineveh are calling for their district to become "an independent governorate that is part of Kurdistan, in protest to the fact that a Sunni list took all main administrative positions in the provincial council."

Meanwhile Caroline Alexander and Ryan Finn (Bloomberg News) report that a Kirkuk car bombing resulted in 10 dead and twenty-two wounded and that "[m]any of the casualties were police protecting an oil installation, President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said on its Arabic-language Web site." BBC notes 11 dead and that the death toll is expected to rise.  Mustapha Mahmoud and Sherko Raouf (Reuters) add, "The casualties were piled into a police truck, and police travelling with the dead and wounded fired into the air to clear traffic on the road ahead, a Reuters witness said." And they quote
eye witness Othman Sharif asking, "What did I do to deserve this?  I was going home from work in a taxi . . . there was a huge blast and I fell unconscious.  I didn't wake up until I was in hospital covered in bandages." In other violence, Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad sticky bombing left two people injured and a Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured.
Yesterdy at Foreign Policy, Thomas E. Ricks noted one-time CIA asset Ahmed Chalabi has ben making the press rounds and is stating that George W. Bush is "[a] man with very little skill and knowledge" (the better to manipulate him, Wolf Chalabi?) and is claiming that Iran and the US had a deal to topple Iraq.  (In the interview he also cites "Israelis," use the link.)  Thomas E. Ricks is the author of the bestseller The Gamble.
Turning to Germany.  BBC reports that US Master Sgt John Hatley was found guilty today by a military jury ("eight officers and NCOs) in the murder of four Iraqi prisoners and BBC adds of Hatley and other US service members, "When they found four Iraqi men not far from a cache of weapons, including sniper rifles, just a week after one of their own sergeants had been shot and killed, they took the law into their own hands, says the BBC's Kevin Connolly in Washington.  With no real evidence against them the detainees should have been released, our correspondent says.  Instead they were bound, blindfolded and summarily killed.  It is thought their bodies were dumped in a canal but they have never been found."  Seth Robson (Stars and Stripes) explains, "Sgt. 1st Class Joseph P. Mayo, 27, was sentenced to 35 years' confinement after he admitted in court last month to shooting one of the detainees. At a court-martial in February, Sgt. Michael Leahy Jr., 28, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole for shooting two of the detainees. Both Mayo and Leahy told the court this week that Hatley also shot detainees."
In other legal news, Robert Wilonsky (Dallas Observer) explains, "On September 14, 26-year-old Army Sgt. Wesley Durbin of Hurst was killed at a small patrol base south of Baghdad when he and another soldier, 24-year-old Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson of Florida, were gunned down by a fellow soldier. As The Dallas Morning News noted in September, Durbin was a former Marine who enlisted after graduating Dallas Lutheran School and fought in Iraq, only to enlist in the Army later -- because, said his wife, 'He was a soldier from the time he woke up to the time he went to bed'."  Wilonsky noted that US Army Sgt Joseph Bozicevich is accused of murdering Wesley Durbin and Darris Dawson.   UPI notes that "Durbin and Dawson allegedly were shot while counseling Bozicevich for what the squad leaders considered was his poor performance".  Frenchi Jones (Coastal Courier) reports that the court-martial heard more testimony today and that none of the witnesses had testimony similar to Staff Sgt John Dresel's Tuesday:
Bozicevich: Mother [expletive], I am going to kill you.  
Darris Dawson: Why? Stop. Please don't shoot.  
Jones adds, "According to Dresel, the person on the ground lay three or four feet from the figure.  At first, he said, he didn't know if the two figures were enemies or allied troops.  Suddenly, there was more fire.  The man with the gun discharged two shots into the body, the muzzle flash from the weapon lit up the night, revealing the shooter's identity."  Dresel.
In non-Iraq news, Women's Voices, Women's Votes announces:
Together with the other groups - in what WVWV has identified as the Rising American Electorate - African-Americans, Hispanics, non-whites, and young people (52% of the population)- unmarried women dramatically increased their voter participation and changed America's leadership and direction.

recently released statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau further explain why unmarried women are the decisive demographic in this country and the cutting-edge of the Rising American Electorate. Unmarried women are the largest fastest growing demographic group. At a time when voter participation slightly declined among all adult Americans, unmarried women registered and voted in significantly greater numbers than ever before. In fact, unmarried women's growing participation was essential to the increase in voting by young people, non-whites, African-Americans and Hispanics. They are the consistent outperformers of the 2008 turnout.

Much remains to be done before unmarried women participate in our democracy in proportion to their growing numbers, and advance the issues that address their needs, including employment, fair pay, universal health coverage, and increased investments in child care, public education, college opportunity, and career training.

But, together we have made great progress. These facts from the Census Population Survey analysis of the voting-eligible population show how much we have achieved - and how far we still have to go. (The Census Bureau statistics represent "real numbers" and are more accurate than last year's exit polls, which understated the voter participation of unmarried women.)
Finally, independent journalist David Bacon, whose latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press), covers the Employee Free Choice Act in "Why workers need the Employee Free Choice Act" (San Francisco Chronicle):

Unions are good for workers. Today, median weekly pay for union members is $886, compared to $691 for nonunion workers. Moving cargo on the Oakland waterfront pays three times what stocking shelves does at Wal-Mart because longshore workers have had a union contract since 1934.
In 1936, Congress recognized the value of unions and passed the National Labor Relations Act, setting up a legal system in which private sector, nonfarm workers could join unions and bargain. The preamble declares the law's purpose: "encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and ... protecting the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing."
Today, however, the law is virtually unable to fulfill its intended function. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, has proposed commonsense measures to restore its effectiveness in the Employee Free Choice Act. Employers are mounting a hysterical campaign against it, even calling it "bolshevism," and claiming to be protectors of their workers' rights. We need a reality check about what really happens when workers try to organize.