Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, May 26, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, Sahwa threatens a return to open war, Iraq loses a Trade Minister, the 4300 mark was passed over the weekend, the US military announces deaths including a US State Dept employee, Mike Mullens doesn't think the US is leaving Iraq, Ralph Nader allegedly calls Barack Obama a "War Criminal," and more.
On Saturday the 4300 mark was passed. The US military announced: "CAMP VICTORY, Iraq -- A Multi-National Corps - Iraq Soldier died in a non-combat related incident in Baghdad Province, May 22. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The incident is under investigation."  With that death, the number of US service members killed in the illegal war reached 4300.  Already the mark -- which really wasn't noted by the press -- has been passed.  The US military announced today: "BAGHDAD -- Three people were killed and two were wounded May 25, when an improvised explosive device detonated during a visit of construction sites near Fallujah. The IED struck a vehicle traveling as part of a convoy that included Coalition Forces and U.S. Government civilians and contractors. The two wounded personnel were medically evacuated to a hospital for treatment. The names of the deceased and injured are being withheld pending next of kin notification."  Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports one of the dead is a US service member bringing the number killed in the Iraq War to 4301 and bringing the number killed in the month of May thus far to 19.  That's the same number killed in April.  Unless you're the Mainstream Media which damn well better not try to pull "It's the same number" if 19 sticks and they're doing their end of the month reports.  They didn't say 19.  One of the 19 who died in April was a service member who left Iraq for medical treatment and continued to receive that treatment (hospitalized the entire time) only to die.  The media didn't count him.  They didn't give a damn.  Sgt Christopher D. Loza died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center April 10th.  They acted as if he didn't exist and ran with 18 deaths.  So they can't turn around now and claim, should it not go higher than 19, "It's the same number as last month."  Not after they all but spat on Christopher D. Loza.
One person killed in yesterday's bombing has already been identified.  Erika Slife (Chicago Tribune) reports that 56-year-old Terry Barnich was killed in a roadside bombing yesterday and that he "was serving as deputy director for the Iraq Transition Assistance Office for the State Department".  Cara Siever reported on Barnich's work in Iraq in January 2008:  "Terry has been in Baghdad since mid-January 2007 and lives in a 150-foot trailer in the Green Zone, a heavily guarded area of closed-off streets in central Baghdad where U.S. authorities live and work.  Terry travels frequently through the Red Zone -- less safe areas of the city where the risk of a roadside bomb or kidnapping always is present.  However, he says traveling with the State Department security makes him feel very safe.  While attacks in the Green Zone have subsided since he arrived, Terry had one close call; he missed being hit by two rockets by 44 paces and about eight seconds."   Barnich was in the 1971 graduating class from Washington High School in Chicago.  He was legal counsel to Illinois Govenor James R. Thompson during the time when Gary Dotson was in the news (Cathy Webb falsely accused him of rape and Dotson was imprisoned for six years before Webb got honest and also tried to cash in with her book Forgive Me). Thomas F. Roser (Chicago Daily Observer) remembers Barnich here which also includes comments from others who remember him including David Karmol who worked with Barnich in Baghdad. Carol Wilson knew Barnich from when "he was still the chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission" and she explains, "I didn't realize Terry had spent the last two-and-a-half years in Iraq, not as an independent contractor, getting rich during wartime, but as a government employee, trying to help rebuild critical infrastructure that will enable Iraq to be economically stronger and more secure.  But it doesn't surprise me now to learn what he was doing and to hear that, despite repeated plans to return to the U.S. for good, Barnich kept going back."  The Illinois Commerce Commission issued the following statement today:

The Illinois Commerce Commission extends its deepest sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of former ICC Chairman Terry Barnich, who died Monday, May 25 in Iraq, where he was working as a deputy director for the U.S. State Department's Iraq Transition Assistance office.  A native of Chicago, he served as chairman of the ICC from 1989 to 1992.  Funeral arrangments are pending.
CBS and AP note his "sister, Rochelle Barnich, described her brother as a person with a great sense of humor who had great pride in his country and had been interested in politics since they were children." In 1993, he and Craig Clausen co-founded NPRG. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) quotes from US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill's written statement: "We and all who are working for a brighter future for Iraq condemn this terrible attack in the strongest possible terms.  We remain committed as ever to helping Iraqis achieve the peace, stability and prosperity that will make such acts of terror a thing of the past."
US civilians died over the weekend as well with a corpse discovered Friday in the Green Zone which Ernesto Londono and Steve Fainaru (Washington Post) identified  as Jim Kitterman who had been "president of Janus Construction" and they note, "Another American working for a contractor was killed Friday in a suspected rocket attack near the U.S. Embassy, U.S. officials said. It appeared to be the first fatal rocket attack in the Green Zone in more than a year."  Iraqi civilians died over the weekend also.  Sunday's violence contained a juxtaposition Rod Nordland (New York Times) caught, "On the same day that military spokesmen gave a rare briefing in Baghdad to announce a continued rop in overall violence, insurgents killed at least 22 people in eight attacks in Mosul and Falluja on Sunday, using roadside bombs, drive-by shootings, suicide bombers and execution-style killings, police officials said."
Military spokespeople weren't the only ones making statements Sunday.  The Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also made statements publicy.  The New York Times ignored it naturally.  Noting it here led to five e-mails from CENTCOM trying to insist what it did and didn't mean.  Sorry folks, I believe Mike Mullen is conversant in English.  Sunday Adm Mike Mullens appeared on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos (link has video option and the transcript is here).

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Let me move to Iraq then. U.S. combat forces are scheduled to complete their pullout from Iraqi cities by June 30th. But in recent weeks, we've seen an uptick again in the violence. Does that rise in violence mean that the deadline for pulling American forces out of the cities might not be met?               
MULLEN: Oh, I think we're still very much on a track in terms of pulling the forces out of the cities, which is the end of next month. We're on track to decrease the number of troops down to 35,000 to 50,000 in August of 2010.            
We've had an uptick in violence, but the overall violence levels are at the 2003 levels. It's still fragile. There's an awful lot of political positioning and political debate that's going on right now, and I think that in great part becomes the essence of how Iraq moves forward.      
I'm actually positive about what the Iraqi security forces have done, their army and their police in terms of providing for their own security. They've improved dramatically.           
So the path, I think, is still the right path. These ticks, upticks in violence are going to occur. We said that going in, even into -- as we talked about coming down in force. So we just have to, we have to constantly keep an eye on that.  
Al Qaida is still active. They're not gone. They're very much...       
STEPHANOPOULOS: Al Qaida in Iraq.            
MULLEN: Al Qaida in Iraq is very much diminished, but they still have potential to create these kinds of incidents.              
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the president has said that his overall goal is to have all forces out of Iraq by 2011.               
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)             
OBAMA: Under the status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.           
(END VIDEO CLIP)           
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is pretty unequivocal. Yet I was reading the proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute. They had an interview with Tom Ricks, the U.S. military historian, where he says he worries that the president is being wildly over-  optimistic. He says we may be only halfway through the war. And he talks about a conversation he had with the commanding general in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, who told him he'd like to see 35,000 troops in Iraq in 2015. Is that what you expect, as well?             
MULLEN: Well, certainly the direction from the president and the status of forces agreement that we have with Iraq right now is that we will have all troops out of there by the end of 2011. And that's what we're planning on right now.       
STEPHANOPOULOS: But can Iraq be safe with all U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2007 (sic)?          
MULLEN: Well, we're on a good path now. And we'll have to see. I mean, the next 12 to 18 months are really critical there in that regard, and I think that answering that question will be much clearer given that timeframe.        
The other thing is, we have -- this is a long-term relationship we want with Iraq, and Iraq has stated they want with the United States. And part of that is the possibility that forces could remain there longer. But that's up to the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government to initiate discussions along those lines, and that hasn't happened yet.                       
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's up to the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government. It's up to the president, of course, as well. But from a military perspective, General Odierno says that he would like to see 35,000 troops in 2015. Is that what you all believe is necessary to secure Iraq from a military perspective?           
MULLEN: There's no definitive number right now beyond the end of 2011.     
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it's not zero?          
MULLEN: Well, I mean, when I'm engaged in other countries around the world, I have very small footprints of military personnel in that engagement. You know, and I would hope long-term, that we would have a great military-to-military relationship with Iraq.              
STEPHANOPOULOS: That could include U.S. troops there?           
MULLEN: Well, I mean, we've got small numbers of troops throughout the world that conduct training activities, exercises, and those kinds of things. So long-term in Iraq, I would look to be able to do something like that.         

"It's not zero," George asked.  Basic question.  Mullen is a 63-year-old man who's spoken English for at least 61 -- if not 62 -- of those years.  Yes, CENTCOM, they speak English in Sherman Oaks.  Edward DeMarco (Bloomberg News) caught it, "On Iraq, Mullen said he would like to have some U.S. forces available there for training and exercises with the Iraqi military beyond 2011, when all U.S. forces are set to leave.  He didn't specify how many U.S. military personnel would be needed."  And though I have to hold my nose to note, Manu Raju (Hedda Hopper Lives!) observed Mullen "left open the option of keeping residual forces there after that deadline passes."  Holding my nose for that source (not the reporter, the outlet) but we gave credit where it was due. By the way, Whores For Centcom who lied about what was stated included Janet Adamy (Wall St. Journal), AFP and many, many more.  Decide on your own whether it's worse to do as the New York Times did and ignore it or to 'report' on it and deliberately lie.
Members of Sahwa ("Awakenings," "Sons Of Iraq") have long been under attack this year.  Indpedent journalist Dahr Jamail (at ZNet) reviews some of his months many, many attacks on Sahwa and observes, "The Maliki government in Baghdad, which has perceived the Sahwa as a threat from the beginning of the group's formation, is systematically eliminating the perceived threat.  Maliki has broken his promise to integrate the Sahwa into the government security apparatus, while continuing to forgo payment to Sahwa forces working in security positions around much of Baghdad." Over the weekend, Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) spoke with Sahwa Abu Fatma who stated, "All our arms are from old army caches underground; they will allow us to fight another 20 years.  I've told the Americans, 'If you keep alienating the people, all the Iraqis will fight."  Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) spoke with a Sahwa commander who preferred to remain nameless and he stated, "If we hear from the Americans they are not capable of supporting us . . . within six hours we are going to establish our groups to fight against the corrupt government.  There will be a war in Baghdad."   Meanwhile the US military rushes out a press release today explaining that "big gains in SoI pay reconciliation" is taking place.  Thanks to al-Maliki's government!  Really?  Then why did the "U.S. Military forces oversaw another series of paydays in Multaka"?  So in one village -- not even a major town or city -- where al-Maliki had not been paying 228 members of Sahwa, with US help, the number was just dropped to only 18 not being paid.  For the record, the world was informed last fall that al-Maliki had taken over payments of ALL Sahwa.  That was not true.  Then we were told it had happened early this year.  Then that it would take place April 1st. 
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad mortar attack which injured eight people and a Baghdad car bombing which left three people injured and a Kirkuk roadside bombing which injured a driver and two "members of a military inspection committee from the Iraqi Ministry of Defence". Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing which left two police officers injured and an Iskandariya car bombing which left "two bankers" injured.  Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Also on Tuesday, a suicide bomber targeted a U.S. convoy in the still-troubled northern city of Mosul, the second suicide attack against Americans operating there in as many days. The bomber missed the Americans but killed one Iraqi and wounded 45 others, the military said."
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Kirkuk home invasion which claimed the lives of Ali Ahmed Hussein and his sons Salah and Hussein.  Reuters notes 1 taxi driver shot dead in Kirkuk.
Abed Falah al-Sudani is no longer Iraq's Trade Minister.  Over the weekend, Jack Dolan and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported al-Sudani was expected to be out of office shortly and they noted, "All of Baghdad seemed to watch last weekend when Sudany appeared on state TV to answer questions about his two brothers allegedly skimming millions from a national food program as ordinary Iraqis went without staples such as rice, wheat and cooking oil. Sudany also struggled to answer charges that when government investigators arrived at the Trade Ministry, his guards had fired into the air, allowing his brothers to escape out a back door, and about why an inspector general was transferred to Beijing after he asked about shipments of spoiled food."  Timothy Williams and Abeer Mohammed (New York Times) report Sudani has quit and note the rations shortages throughout "Sudani's tenure . . . arousing widespread anger."  Nouri al-Maliki appointed al-Sudani, who is also a member of Nouri's political party.  Yesterday Dolan and Hammoudi quoted Nouri mouthpiece Yaseen Majeed declaring, "It's over.  They [Parliament] don't have to have a no confidence vote anymore."  That's no doubt what Nouri wants.  That's not necessarily where it stands.

Alsumaria reports, "As Parliamentarian and presidential elections are looming in Iraq Kurdistan, the IHEC announced that submitting candidacies for presidential elections has ended on Monday while current President Massoud Barazani and five other candidates are on the list." The elections are scheduled for July 25th. The KRG did not participate in the January 31st elections. Nor did Kirkuk. Massoud Barzani is the current president of the KRG and his political party is the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP). Jalal Talabani is the current president of Iraq and his political party is the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The elections will follow Kurdistan history and be a face off between the two parties.
Appearing Sunday on Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox, Kevin Zeese declared, "It's funny you say that, I was just -- before you called -- talking to Ralph Nader and Ralph says Obama's a War Criminal."  Here's where the remarks pops up. 
Cindy Sheehan: I've just crossed that third rail and said that Obama doing this and killing innocent Afghanis and Pakistanis and covering up torture and covering up the war crimes of the Bush administration, that makes him a War Criminal too.
Kevin Zeese: It's funny you say that, I was just -- before you called -- talking to Ralph Nader and Ralph says Obama's a War Criminal.  For exactly the same reasons you just laid out: he's killing civilians, wedding party bombings, drones killing 70 civilians for every one fighter .  And so I think more and more people are seeing that Obama is part of this.
That's what Kevin Zeese said.  Did Ralph Nader say it?  We don't know.  Did Ralph Nader say it and expect it to be private?  We don't know.  It's Kevin Zeese.  Factor that in.  For your laughing pleasure, here's Kev-o blathering on:
It shows the left needs to get better organized and become more agressive and withhold their votes from people who promise more war.  We can't just vote for someone who promises to, as he did during the campaign, expand Afghanistan, attack Pakistan, very slowly and incompletely withdraw from Iraq and hope that someone who says that's gonna actually support our cause when he says he doesn't.  We have to use our vote to stop that.
The public e-mail address for this site (The Common Ills) can be used to contact Kat.  That's fine.  (It can also be used to contact Ruth and Isaiah who also write here.)  The mirrorsite (here) has a contact forum.  There's no reason to use that contact forum to e-mail Kat unless you're e-mailing her about her music articles.  That's the only thing she writes that goes up at the mirror site.  If you're writing about what's she's written at her own site, don't use the contact form on the mirror site because her writing from her own site DOES NOT APPEAR THERE and you are CLOGGING UP THE E-MAILS.  I bring that up for a reason.  Kevin Zeese  used the mirror site to contact Kat and, goodness, did Kat and I laugh at his cowardly punk ass.  Now Kevin wants people to use their votes?  Now? He damn well didn't in 2008.  Half the time you couldn't understand what he was saying in 2008 because he had his tongue so far up Barack's ass.  Kevin Zeese is a damn liar and Kat didn't come out and call him that.  But then little punk ass wouldn't stop e-mailing and she did.  Kevin Zeese pimped and whored for Barack.  And he shows up on the Soapbox to tell the world that people should withhold their votes?  Where the hell was he when it mattered?  Listen to him whine about mountain top removal ("it just pierces me through my body") and grasp that Barack was always promising that.  And that Kevin was happy to cheerlead Barack.  In July of 2008, Barack wasn't just a candidate, according to Kevy, Barack was the next president.  We don't need Kevin Zeese now.  He certainly couldn't be counted on back when it actually mattered.
He and his little punk ass that wants to whine today?  He made sure Barack was installed.  He offered weak-ass criticisms and wanted to whine that all he could do was that weak-ass criticism because otherwise people wouldn't listen.  Oh, poor little baby.  People might not listen.  How sad.  He needs to take accountability for what he did and stop trying to act big, bad and brave today.  We're not in the mood for it.  Kat's laughing as I'm dictating this, she may or may not write about the topic tonight.  But there's no way in hell that either of us is going to hear that crap without laughing.  This is the same Kevin Zeese who wanted to whine that his 90% praise of Barry O and 5% maybe and 5% criticism was all that could be managed.  Go Dick Cheney yourself, Kevin Zeese.  Ralph may have said it.  He may not have.  I hope he did say it but, if he did, he wasn't saying it for public consumption.  If he meant for it to be passed around, he would have said it himself publicly or written about it.
Cindy Sheehan's speaking tour takes her to Corvallis, Oregon tomorrow (Unitarian Universality Fellowship of Corvallis at seven p.m.).
Phoenix: June 5th       
Dallas: June 7th and 8th          
Waco: June 9th           
Austin: June 10th and 11th           
Nashville: June 14-16        
St. Petersburg, FL: June 17-18     
Philadelphia: June 20-23           
NYC: June 24-26          
Cape Cod: June 27-29            
New Hampshire: June 30 - July 1    
San Francisco: July 3 - 5 (Socialist Conference)           
Cleveland: July 8-9 (National Assembly to end the Iraq War)            
Pittsburgh: July 11-12          
Norfolk, VA: July 15-18       
Vashon Island, Washington: July 25-26         
Kevin Zeese, Willem Buiter's "Obushma-Biney in the Home of the Frightened" (Financial Times of London) demonstrates how a grown up calls out Barry O:

The spinelessness and moral cowardice of the Obama administration know no bounds. The Bush-Cheney team ordered the torture and abuse of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and assorted other locations abroad -- offshore detention without trial as well as torture by US officials or persons acting under their instructions being permitted by Article VIII of the United States Constitution, as confirmed in the XXVIIIth Amendment to the US Constitution.           
Candidate Obama declares he abhors torture and deplores what went on in Gitmo and in secret detention centres around the world, but President Obama decides that the Camp may have to remain open for another year, as he doesn't seem to know what to do with the prisoners. The right thing to do would have been to send a plane to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base on the day of his inauguration, to move all the prisoners to the US.                    
President Obama then also decides not to prosecute those who committed the crimes of torture or abuse of prisoners or were responsible for these crimes. The president's excuse was was that he sought to turn the page on "a dark and painful chapter". It was a "time for reflection, not for retribution", he said.