Tuesday, June 30, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces mulitple deaths, Lt. Dan Choi fights for his career, bombings grip Iraq, Barack Obama has another routine day while Ralph Nader speaks out and Cynthia McKinney gets active, and more.
Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- Four Multi-National Division–Baghdad Soldiers died June 29 as the result of combat related injuries. The Soldiers' names are being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Website at http://www.defenselink.mil/ . The announcements are made on the Website no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. MND-B will not release any additional details prior to notification of next of kin and official release by the DoD. The incident is currently under investigation." The announcement today took the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War to 4321, with 15 for the month upsetting Operation Happy Talk plans for billing June as the second lowest month for US service member deaths since the start of the illegal war.
June 30th. The for-show play-day of pretend 'pull-out'. Mike Tharp (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "The American and Iraqi militaries had different notions of when the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from major cities would start. The Americans thought that "after June 30," as written in the status of forces agreement, meant 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, July 1. The Iraqis -- whose timeline ultimately prevailed -- interpreted the dawn of their new authority as when the clock ticked past midnight to Tuesday, June 30. That's one reason that so many Iraqis celebrated the handoff of authority Monday night with singing, dancing and parties in their streets and parks. In the end, once both sides realized the communications breakdown, the Americans simply told their forces to start abiding by the new rules 23 hours and 59 minutes earlier than they'd planned." So if it was a historic day, let's go to the numbers, let's go to the stats. Woops. Reporters tried to do that during a Baghdad briefining with top US commander in Iraq General Ray Odierno and it wasn't not pretty. Reuters quotes him exclaiming, "Because it would be inaccurate! Because I don't know exactly how many [US service members] are in the cities. It varies day-to-day based on the mission. [. . . .] How many times you want me to say that? I don't know." They note he apologized for his outburst ("temper" was his term) and it must be stressful to be the one who has attempted to avoid the spin but have it shoved off on you. CBS and AP cite CBS News' Lara Loogan quoting al-Maliki declaring, "Those who think Iraqis are unable to defend their country are committing a fatal mistake" and making that declaration from "a makeshift stand -- as much due to security concerns as by designs." Free Speech Radio News interviewed Iraqi Baswa Alkhateeb, an Iraqi mother of two in Baghdad (here for the segment). Manuel Rueda noted, "She says that nothing will change on a daily basis because US soldiers have already decreased their presence in Baghdad."
Baswa Alkhateeb: We don't see them around much like before so they've already shrinked their activites in the cities. They've already done that for the past four or five months. [. . . . On why she's not celebrating today.] We have a lawless state The alligance of the security forces that are taking over is not for the country or for the state it's for the Islamic groups for the clerics who are in the Parliament who ruling now so it's not really a blessing or something to be happy about. Add to that the whole institutions were dismantled. So the way that it was rearranged after 2003, 2004, it's not about the state, it's about allegiance to their sects, to the cultural, political cultural, that put them there. [. . .] What's happening now is no employment, no educational system, no health care, nothing. IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons] all over. We have graduates from university who do not have a place to be employed unless they're part of this political culture which is following the clerics and the Islamic extreme parties ruling the country. It's something new and deformed actually. Our elites are outside, they've all left. We need experts, we need professional people here. So it will take time I don't know and all these political groups, the extremist Islamists have militias. And more were enrolled in the armies -- in the security forces.
But don't believe her, Marc Santora (New York Times) stuck his big toe out of the Green Zone and declares, "Schools are open, including one where a teacher had been strung up by her feet and her face cut off by extremists." Santora whores it so well he probably forgets that most readers of the paper may be thinking, "Why the hell didn't we ever hear about that story?" You didn't hear it because they didn't want you to. They looked the other way during the slaughter on Haditha Street, they looked the other way as thugs were installed, they looked the other way as Nouri and his thugs threatened the press (though they did pull the reporter whom Iraqi forces 'jokingly' shot at), they ignored so very much and now you're left with the choice of believeing Marc Santora who is paid by the paper that sold the illegal war or an Iraqi mother in Baghdad with children who damn well knows what the situation on the ground in her city is. While Santora worked himself into a frenzy trying to make it appear today was historic, the US government was less busy. At the State Dept's press briefing today, Iraq wasn't a topic Ian Kelly or the press bothered to bring up. At the White House, on this 'historic' day, tubby Robert Gibbs opened the press briefing laughing about his foul mouth being caught on (and edited from) video tape. Forced to address Barry O's lackadaisical attitude towards Iraq, Gibbs began insisting that wasn't the case and then dropped back to making jokes about the previous administration because when you have no plans yourself, let alone accomplishments, better to keep pointing the previous screw-up.
The 'pull-out' is not the 'drawn-down' or, heaven forbid, a withdrawal. Though he repeatedly lied to voters during the primary and presidential campaigns, Barack Obama's not done a damn thing he promised and BBC News explains that "131,000 US troops remain in Iraq, including 12 combat brigades, and the total is not expected tro drop below 128,000 until after the Iraqi national election in January." Even then we wouldn't see withdrawal and the January elections were supposed to take place in December. Violence or other options might push them back again.
Violence? Kirkuk was the site of mass deaths from a car bombing. Tim Cocks and Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) count at least 32 dead with over one hundred injured Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) notes that the bombing also destroyed 30 shops in a market. Ali Windawi and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) explain, "The attack came barely a week after nearly 80 people were killed in a suicide truck bomb in Taza Khurmatu, a Shiite Turkmen town just south of the city. Both blasts pointed to a deliberate effort to fan the ethnic tensions in an oil-rich area that Kurds with to claim as part of their self-governing region in northern Iraq and Arabas want tied to the central government in Baghdad. The blast marred a day that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki had hailed as a historic victory". Daniel Williams (Bloomberg News) notes the death toll has risen to "at least 41 people and wounded 120 others."
Kirkuk was the subject of the Christian Science Monitor's editorial "Iraq's next milestone: the Kurdish question" this morning -- excerpt:
Tension between Mr. Maliki – an Arab – and the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in the north has escalated significantly in the last year. It touches issues of fundamental importance -- national unity, oil wealth, and the balance of power between the central government and the regions. Left unaddressed -- or worse, provoked -- the Kurd-Arab divide could split the Iraqi state.
A wide swath of disputed territory lies at the heart of the problem. Last August, only direct negotiation between Kurdish President Masoud Barzani and Maliki was able to head off a military showdown between Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the Kurdish-administered town of Khanaqin.
Nothing is more central to the territorial tug of war than the province of Kirkuk, which lies next to an oil field that contains 20 percent of the country's proven oil reserves. The Kurds consider Kirkuk historically theirs, but it is now populated by a mix of Kurds, Turkmens, Christians, and Arabs -- the latter group was sent by Saddam Hussein to flood the area. The 2005 Iraqi Constitution calls for Kirkuk's status to be set by referendum, but the vote keeps being delayed.
In other reported violence today . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad roadside bombings which left four people injured
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an armed clash in Mosul with 1 death.
Reuters notes 3 corpses ("alcohol dealers" remember fundamentalists thugs rule in Iraq) were discovered in Tikrit.
While the for-show 'pull-out' captures the bulk of the attention today, many other telling moments took place. In Iraq?
The tag-sale on Iraqi oil had a . . . Well, Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) calls it a disappointment: "Iraq was seeking bids from firms to develop eight of its existing oil and gas fields, but only one contract was awarded to work one oil field at a public auction televised live from Baghdad's Rashid Hotel inside the heavily fortified Green Zone." But it wasn't disappointing for everyone. This morning Keith Bradsher (New York Times) reported on what he saw as a surprise move on the part of Chinese oil companies to enter into the bidding. Surprising or not, a partnership between China National Petroleum Corporation and British Petroleum proved to be a winning combo. Robin Pagnamenta (Times of London) reports they won "access to Iraq's biggest oilfield" in the auction. It needs to be noted that there were other winners, they just didn't like what they wong. Pagnamenta reports that "all other foreign companies involved in bidding for a total of eight fields, including Royal Dutch Shell, rejected what were considered to be punitive terms on offer fromt he Iraqi Government. In total, nearly 30 overseas companies withdrew."
In the US?
Yesterday, as Marcia and Stan noted, Barack Obama invited LGBT 'leaders' to the White House and tried to use his oily charm and pretty words to pretend he might someday -- not any time soon, understand -- do something. Someday. Maybe. In the real world, Lt. Daniel Choic fights for his career and does it with no help from the alleged 'fierce advocate' for the LGBT community. Alexa James (Times Herald-Record) reports that closed-door deliberations continue by a US Army board over what to do about the New York National Guard member who's 'crime' was being honest about who he was. James notes, "Choi graduated from West Point in 2003 as an Arabic major and served as an interpreter in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. He left active duty and joined the Guard last June." Daniel Nasaw (Brisbane Times) explains, "In one of the last instances of government-sanctioned discrimination, the military allows gay men and lesbians to serve in the military only if they keep quiet about their sexuality. For more than a year after meeting his boyfriend and falling in love, Lieutenant Choi was forced to lie or risk joining a list of almost 13,000 gay and lesbian personnel discarged in the past 16 years under the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy'." Mike McAndrew (Syracuse Post-Standard) notes the hearing began this morning at eight o'clock. Scott Horsley (NPR's All Things Considered) files a report featuring noted homophobe and hag Elaine Donnelly, apparently taking a break from writing for the National Review and taking ugly lessons, who weighs in against any changes to Don't Ask, Don't Tell declaring, "We don't make policy based on popular culture or marching in the streets or party favors." Party favors? The last time Donnelly was invited to a party, Howdy Doody was still on the airwaves, thereby explaining her bitter bitchiness. Bitchy? Oh, we're back to Barack who wanted to talk about how he was committed to changing people's minds when all the lazy ass needs to do is sign an executive order putting a stop-loss on discharges under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That's all it takes. If he'd do that, Dan Choi would not be fighting for his career, no one would be at risk. It would cost him nothing and he wouldn't even have to go through Congress. Barry O loves to mingle with his fellow celebrities posing as 'leaders'. But Barry just doesn't like to do anything. June 19th on Democracy Now!, it was explained how simple it was for Don't Ask, Don't Tell to be stopped immediately:
AMY GOODMAN: And what is the significance of it being passed by Congress, rather than just a policy of the Pentagon?
NATHANIEL FRANK: Well, a couple things. First of all, because it's now a matter of federal law for the first time, because before that it was just a Pentagon policy and regulation, it's now that much more difficult for the policy to be repealed, because as a law passed by Congress, Congress would need to repeal it.
I do want to correct one thing that Secretary Alexander said, that President Obama does have the power to stop the firings. He can act unilaterally to use his powers of stop-loss through a statute, 12305 from 1983, in which Congress itself gives the President the power to stop separations in the military for a variety of reasons. And so, he has said that he wants to stop the firings, and he actually has the power to stop the firings. And so, it's really been very unclear to many of us why he's unwilling to take that step. The White House has been --
AMY GOODMAN: You mean it would be an executive order?
NATHANIEL FRANK: It would be an executive order halting all separations while we are under a national emergency, which the statute defines as being -- having the National Guard mobilized, as it currently is. And then he could go to Congress some months down the line and say, "Look, we've had openly gay service officially" -- incidentally, we already have openly gay service; thousands of people are serving openly, notwithstanding the policy. But he could turn to this situation officially and say, "We have openly gay service because of this executive order. The sky hasn't fallen. Now, Congress, let's move to get this off the books permanently." So it would be a one-two punch. And that is an option that Obama has. And he's been asked about it, the White House has been asked about it, and they haven't given a good reason why, given what he said about wanting to stop the firings, he's continuing to let the firings go, when he has the power to do otherwise.
But he chooses not to do a damn thing. And the board has reached a decision to recommend that Lt Dan Choi be discharged. For the 'crime' of being gay and being honest about it. Mike McAnder (Syracuse Post-Standard) reports Choi was informed of the decision at five this evening and that "he plans to appeal to higher ranking officers" because, "I refuse to lie about my love relationship."
The reality is that Barack could have stepped in at any point and put a stop to this witch hunt but he chose not to. And eality is that Barry O will be judged him not by his pretty words and empty promises but by his actions. Related, Chris Hedges' "The Truth Alone Will Not Set You Free" (Information Clearing House):
All periods of profound change occur in a crisis. It was a crisis that brought us the New Deal, now largely dismantled by the corporate state. It was also a crisis that gave the world Adolf Hitler and Slobodan Milosevic. We can go in either direction. Events move at the speed of light when societies and cultural assumptions break down. There are powerful forces, which have no commitment to the open society, ready to seize the moment to snuff out the last vestiges of democratic egalitarianism. Our bankrupt liberalism, which naively believes that Barack Obama is the antidote to our permanent war economy and Wall Street fraud, will either rise from its coma or be rolled over by an organized corporate elite and their right-wing lap dogs. The corporate domination of the airwaves, of most print publications and an increasing number of Internet sites means we will have to search, and search quickly, for alternative forms of communication to thwart the rise of totalitarian capitalism.
Hedges supported Ralph Nader in 2008 and Ralph Nader's sent out an e-mail today entitled "Obama Betrayal Syndrome" which opens with:
"I want my money back, President Obama!"
That's the title of Marie Marchand's column in Common Dreams this week.
Marie Marchand says she gave $20 a week for seven months to the Obama campaign -- plus $60 every once in a while for a t-shirt and sticker.
"I gave of my modest purse joyfully," she writes. "I thought I was supporting change I could believe in, not more of the same bloodshed and war!" She now feels betrayed.
Millions of Americans are feeling betrayed.
They thought Obama as President meant change we can believe in.
They thought Obama as President meant withdrawal from Iraq.
"Well they were wrong then, weren't they?" as Marty Feldman says in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. Nader's e-mail is promoting Single Payer Action TV, so check that out. Cynthia McKinney also ran for the US presidency in 2008. And Kimberly Wilder (On The Wilder Side) passes on this news release:
ISRAEL ATTACKS JUSTICE BOAT; KIDNAPS HUMAN RIGHTS WORKERS; CONFISCATES MEDICINE, TOYS AND OLIVE TREES
For more information contact:
Greta Berlin (English)
tel: +357 99 081 767 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Caoimhe Butterly (Arabic/English/Spanish):
tel: +357 99 077 820 / email@example.com
[23 miles off the coast of Gaza , 15:30pm] - Today Israeli Occupation Forces attacked and boarded the Free Gaza Movement boat, the SPIRIT OF
HUMANITY, abducting 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (see below for a complete list of passengers). The passengers
and crew are being forcibly dragged toward Israel .
"This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza
Strip," said Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. Congresswoman and presidential candidate. "President Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that's exactly what we tried to do. We're
asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey."
According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released yesterday, the Palestinians living in Gaza are "trapped in despair." Thousands
of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during Israel 's December/January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of
almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel 's disruption of medical supplies.
"The aid we were carrying is a symbol of hope for the people of Gaza , hope
that the sea route would open for them, and they would be able to
transport their own materials to begin to reconstruct the schools, hospitals
and thousands of homes destroyed during the onslaught of "Cast Lead". Our mission is a gesture to the people of Gaza that we stand by them and that
they are not alone" said fellow passenger Mairead Maguire, winner of a Noble Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland .
Just before being kidnapped by Israel , Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage, stated that: "No
one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat
to Israel . We carry medical and reconstruction supplies, and children's toys. Our passengers include a Nobel peace prize laureate and a former U.S. congressperson. Our boat was searched and received a security clearance
by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters."
Arraf continued, " Israel 's deliberate and premeditated attack on our unarmed boat is a clear violation of international law and we demand our immediate and unconditional release."
One of the last labor reporters left in the United States is independent journalist David Bacon -- whose latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). At Immigration Prof Blog, Bacon's photos of a
Mixtec migrant Margarito Salvador's family who work in the strwaberry fields of Watsonville, Calif.