Thursday, April 09, 2009

Still sending troops to Iraq

On the streets of Medina Wasl, merchants chant in Arabic, and a call to prayer blares over a loudspeaker. You can't understand the store signs, which are written in a foreign language. And you don't know who's your friend and who wants to kill you. The Iraq war has come to the United States.
"The only thing they haven't got down is the smell," said Capt. Jeff Vones of Clayton. "There is something very distinct about the smell in Iraq."
On 1,200 square miles in the Mojave Desert, members of the Army National Guard have just finished their final training before deploying to the real Iraq.

The above is from Ethan Hyman's "N.C. Guard troops prepare for Iraq" (News & Observer) and, yes, US troops continue to be sent to Iraq. No, the Iraq War is not over just because the media lost interest. The media lost interest in the illegal war they had to have. They worked overtime to sell it to the American people ("Case closed!" after Collie Powell lies to the United Nations) and they got it and then they didn't want it. Spoiled children ripping the wrapping off one Christmas present after another and then upset when there are no more to open. North Carolina's Army National Guard's 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team sends approximately 4,000 Guard members to Iraq next week. As Patrick Martin's "Pentagon budget envisions a series of Iraq-style wars" (WSWS) observes:

At a formal press announcement Monday and in media appearances over the next day, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates unveiled the biggest military budget in world history, in anticipation of an endless series of Iraq and Afghanistan-style wars by American imperialism.
Both the military budget itself and the official who drafted it--Gates held the same position in the last two years of the Bush administration and is the first Pentagon chief to be retained by a new president--underscore the fundamental continuity between Obama and Bush.
For all its pretensions of "change" and all the popular illusions attached to Obama's supposed "anti-war" stance, the new administration is as committed to the ruthless pursuit of the interests of American imperialism as its discredited predecessor.

BBC News reports "tens of thousands" have taken to the streets in Baghdad to protest, carrying flags and chanting "No, no America. Yes, yes Iraq" to mark the sixth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. The protestors are said to be followers of Muqtada al-Sadr and "the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says the cleric is still showing that he has some political clout. His political followers did quite well in January's provincial elections and he is again showing that he has the ability to call tens of thousands of people out into the streets, our correspondent says."

No news article on Iraq makes the pages of the New York Times today. The New York Times is under a lot more pressure than many seem to know as it tries to dance for it's new master and even the family which has long owned the paper is nervous. But while the cuts coming haven't yet hit the NYT staff (and they are coming), they have hit the Boston Globe (which NYT owns). Richard Perez-Pena's "Boston Globe Surprised by Size of Demand for Cuts" lists some of the outrageous demands NYT is making (and also notes that NYT refuses to show their books -- for good reason, NYT stock is actually worthless because of the two-tiered system but showing the books would result in it being even more worthless). So on the day that the Times reports on the cuts and sacrifices they are demanding of the Boston Globe, we're treated to an example of which staff really works and which doesn't? (A huge portion of NYT staff occupy desks and never work, haven't in years.)

How does it telegraph this. A18 of the nation edition appears to demonstrate the paper is so damn lazy it thought it could pose as Life magazine (original run of Life) and just offer a photo. No story. The photo requires a story and, in fact, the same photo runs in the Boston Globe and comes with a story, "Praising gains in Iraq, Biden welcomes home soldiers at Fort Bragg." Now it's an AP story the Times would argue. Uh-huh. And the Times runs AP stories all the time. What's the point? Where was the editor and why wasn't it asked, "We're running a photo of Joe Biden with the military and we're not offering more than a caption? Are we still a newspaper?" That's the question, after the heads start rolling at the Times, many will be asking, "Are we still a newspaper?" (They'll need a Magic 8-ball to answer that question.)

Yesterday at the Washington Post online, White House reporter Scott Wilson participated in an online chat, below are the sections on Iraq:

surprise: Scott,
Can't the media start eliminating the word "surprise" when a president visits Iraq? It will always be a surprise visit so it should just be a given when the visit occurs, the visit is naturally a surprise.

Scott Wilson: Totally agree...Unannounced is the better description.

Houston: What security procedures are in place for a President to visit a war zone like Iraq? I assume the rank and file troops are kept in the dark until the Prez shows up but obviously some people have to know to make security arrangements. Also, do you get the impression that the military really likes Obama as opposed to Bush or is it simply because they know they are going home with Obama's plan?

Scott Wilson: The Secret Service keeps the security details very private obviously, but I imagine that the morning of his arrival the word gets out among the soldiers (I've been to Camp Victory a few times, and it's huge. But I'll bet word travels fast in the enormous cafeterias.) There's probably clues ahead of time as the Secret Service makes preparations. And I wouldn't make a guess on your last point. I'd only say that many soldiers I met when I worked in Iraq were less interested in going home than in getting the job done correctly as they saw it.

[. . .]

in getting the job done correctly as they saw it. : What exactly is the "job" in Iraq? How do we tell when it is done? Does it involve getting the 5,000,000 refugees home? Taking the walls in Baghdad down? Stopping Kurdish exapnsionism? Gett the country drinking water, electricity? jobs?

Scott Wilson: Seems to me - yes.

In other news, Rick Rogers (San Diego Union-Tribune) covers the closing arguments in the court-martial of the marine who twice confessed to murder on tape. I'm not in the mood for it or for Paul Hackett having the nerve to talk about "moral character" -- the same Hackett who has argued that the dead have no names so they matter less. The same Hackett who is hoping to get his client off via the refusal of another marine to provide testimony. There's nothing about any of that which spells out "character."

Famed prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, author most recently of The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, is interviewed by Michael Collins in "Murder Trumps Torture Says Bugliosi" (Dissident Voice) and we'll note this section:

Vincent Bugliosi: There was a cover story in, I think it was Harper's Magazine about two months ago, about prosecuting Bush. Obviously, I bought the magazine, and I opened it up to the prosecution. What was it all about? Torture. The New York Times had a pro and con in the op-ed section about two months ago, pro prosecution to Bush, anti prosecution to Bush. So I looked at what the prosecution was about -- torture. I’m offended by this.
Who's fighting to bring about justice for the perhaps one million innocent Iraqi men, women, and children and babies in their graves? Actually, I shouldn't say I'm going to bring about justice for them, or try to, because I was unable to establish jurisdiction to go after Bush for the deaths of the Iraqi citizens. I did establish jurisdiction to go after him for the deaths of the 4,200 American soldiers. In any event, it would be a symbolic effort to bring about justice for the million people in their graves. Let's say that number's high. In my book I say over 100,000. Certainly there's over 100,000 innocent Iraqi men, women, children and babies who died as a result of Bush's war. Some numbers put it in excess of one million, and we know there's 4,200 American soldiers.
Who's fighting to bring about justice for those in their graves, decomposing in their cold graves right now as I'm talking to you, Michael? Who's doing that out there?

MC: Right.

VB: No one seems to be interested in that. It's all torture, torture, torture, torture, so apparently torturing 24 or 200 Iraqi citizens or Iraqi insurgents or what have you is more important than bringing about justice, let's say, for 4,200 American soldiers who died in Bush’s war. So you can see where I am offended about that.
I'm not saying that Bush should not be prosecuted for torture.
Let's talk about why it's even more offensive to me than I've already told you. I've given you the main reason why I'm offended by it, that that's all they talk about, as opposed to saying let's go after him for taking this nation to war under false pretenses, and then let's also add a count to the indictment for torture. Do you follow?

Bugliosi is correct and the reason for the disconnect is that a lot of the torture 'prosecutors' have never prosecuted a thing, live in a sheltered world where they give lip service to "international law" but really can't visualize an American being forced to face the same sort of justice anyone else would have to. Torture becomes the "easy" path, the "low hanging fruit" they think they can grab or at least point to. It's part of the cowardice of the left and part of the reason a lot of 'leaders' need to step aside and let some young blood in. And not just in the US. Look at the left 'leaders' in England who have refused to ride the avalanche of news and revelations about the lies of Tony Blair's government. The Socialist Worker wants to 'cover' it with a few paragraphs a week and a half after the Gordon Brown government says there will be an investigation?

The Kurdistan Regional Government notes:

President Barzani meets President Obama in Baghdad

Erbil, Kurdistan - Iraq ( – President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani yesterday met US President Barack Obama in Baghdad. This was President Obama’s first trip to Iraq since his inauguration in January 2009.

In their meeting President Barzani and President Obama discussed many issues including the latest developments in the Kurdistan Region and the overall situation in Iraq. President Barzani made clear that the Kurdistan Region remains committed to being part of the solution in Iraq and invited President Obama to visit the Kurdistan Region on a future trip.

President Barzani said, “The Kurdistan Region has always worked to be a part of the solution not the problem in Iraq. We contributed in the political process, which culminated in the creation of the Iraqi constitution. We want to emphasise our full commitment to working with all parties and abiding by the Iraqi constitution to support a democratic, federal Iraq”.

With regards to the hydrocarbon law, President Barzani said that oil contracts in the Kurdistan Region were made in a legal and transparent manner in full accordance with the Iraqi constitution, stating “Oil and gas in the country belongs to all the people of Iraq and all revenues should be shared equally.”

President Barzani noted that America played an important role in Iraq’s liberation and expressed his appreciation for the many sacrifices made by the men and women of American and coalition forces. He fully understood that America would not stay in Iraq permanently, hence the importance of continuing to work together to resolve any outstanding issues and fight terrorism, both through military and political means.

President Obama thanked President Barzani for sharing his views. He said that he was mindful of the tragic history of the Kurds, and had good impressions of the progress in the Kurdistan Region which was the result of hard work and strong leadership.

President Obama also expressed his pleasure that relations between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey have been improving, and noted that during his recent visit to Turkey he discussed those relations. At the conclusion of the meeting, President Obama noted that strict adherence to the Iraqi constitution remains the best mechanism for peace and stability in Iraq and said he looked forward to hearing from President Barzani and working closely with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to make further progress.

President Barzani was accompanied by KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani; Dr Roj Nouri Shawis, President Barzani’s Special Envoy to Baghdad; Dr Fuad Hussein, President Barzani’s Chief of Staff; and Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations.

Accompanying President Obama were Mr Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s Chief of Staff; General James L. Jones, National Security Advisor; General Raymond Odierno, Commander of the Multi-National Forces in Iraq; and Ms Patricia Butenis, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at the US Embassy in Baghdad as well as several other advisers and representatives from President Obama’s administration.

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