Friday, July 03, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Friday, July 3, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Joe Biden is in Iraq, so are land mines and the UN is drawing attention to the crisis, al-Sadr followers protest Biden, and more.
"Biden has come here to divide Iraq according to his plan." Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Iraq yesterday and among today's activities is a protest of his visit by supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr. Andrew Quinn and Sattar Rahim (Reuters) report al-Sadr supporters marched in Baghdad and remarks from al-Sadr (including "Biden has come here to divide Iraq according to his plan") were read aloud to the crowd.   The remark by al-Sadr refers to Biden's support for a federation of three autonomous areas in Iraq: Shia, Sunni and Kurd. That plan is among the reasons Biden has become the point-person for the administration on Iraq because the Kurds are increasingly unhappy with the US and increasingly vocal about what they see as US abandonment of their interests and needs.  Quinn and Rahim note that al-Sadr's supporters were vocal as well, chanting "down, down USA" while burning US flags during their protest.  Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports the Kurds aren't the only ones worrying that Iraq has been abandoned and she quotes Hoyshar Zebari, Iraq's Foreign Minister, stating, "My message to them [US] is . . . you lost Afghanistan in 2001, 2002, and 2003 because you turned your attention to Iraq from Afghanistan -- now you are redirecting your attentions of Afghanistan and if you disengage with Iraq, it could be another failure. The situation is not that solid."  Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Timothy Williams (New York Times) quote Biden declaring he is there to ask: "What is their plan to resolve the real differences that exist?"  Mark Silva (Chicago Tribune) quotes Biden stating, "The reason I came is the president wants focus within the White House on the implementation of our administration's plan to both draw down troops in Iraq and also to promote a political settlement on unresolved issues from boundary disputes to the oil law."
Alsumaria notes it is is a three-day visit and that the vice president "arrived to Baghdad Airport amidst a sand storm which prevented him from conducting a scheduled visit to the US Embassy."  The White House offers three photos of the arrival and Biden being greeted by Zebari and the top US commander in Iraq Gen Ray Odierno.  Thomas M. Defrank (New York Daily News) reports Biden had breakfast with son Beau. Delware's WDEL has an audio report here.  Beau Biden is the Attorney General for the state of Delaware and serving in Iraq as a captain in Delaware's Army National Guard.  Biden's the first child of a president or vice president to serve in this decade's Iraq War.  (The 2008 Republican presidential ticket had two candidates with children serving in Iraq.  US Senator John McCain's son Jimmy served in Iraq.  Governor Sarah Palin's son Track is serving in Iraq.) Despite George W. Bush sending other people's children into harm's way, neither of his daughters served in his illegal war of choice.  Nor did Mary or Deferment Cheney, Dick Cheney's daughters, serve.
Taking a sidebar on Dick Cheney, for those who have forgotten, retired Ambassador Joe Wilson was sent by the CIA to Nigeria to vet accusations that Saddam Hussein (then president of Iraq) was attempting to obtain yellow-cake uranium from the country. Wilson found no evidence to support the claims. Despite that investigation, the false assertion began working its way into cases for the illegal war made by the Bush administration and Bully Boy Bush himself would say that they'd recently learned Saddam attempted to obtain yellow-cake uranium from Africa. Was that Nigeria?

Wilson, at that point didn't know, and attempted to find out. Maybe Saddam had tried with another African country? Nope. It was Nigeria. The administration was lying.

What do you do?

Wilson began warning reporters and then began speaking out publicly.

In retaliation, the administration that LIED and attacked. This was their pattern repeatedly. When former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill went public with issues, the administration attacked him and the press -- hey, David Gregory -- ran with the administration's lies and presented them as fact. In O'Neill's case, he was being accused of stealing government information on discs. Gregory stood on camera, for Today, waiving a copy of Ron Suskind's The Price of Loyalty and repeating the White House charges with a who-knows-what-really-happened spin. Apparently the only one who could know reality would be the non-idiots who knew to read the introduction of a book before repeating baseless charges because the discs are covered in the intro. (As was so often the case on Today, Katie Couric would have to grab the mop and clean up for her co-workers the following day.)

Now they were going after Joe Wilson.

And it wasn't enough to go after Joe Wilson because this was a petty, mafia-like administration. They didn't just go after Wilson, they went after his wife and began outing her to the press as a CIA agent until they found some one (Robert Novak) willing to print their tale.

Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent and her cover was blown by the government she worked for.

Thanks to the efforts of George H.W. Bush and his administration, what had just taken place was a crime. Not for reporters, but for government officials or workers involved in the outing.

Dick Cheney's right-hand I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby ended up convicted from the investigation. Many thought and hoped others would be as well. That was not the case. It was hoped that with a new administration, Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson would have the support of the government on their side as they attempted to discover what had happened to them.

That has not been the case. "Status quo you can believe in" is the Obama administration's slogan and they've done everything they can to prevent the truth from coming out.

R. Jeffrey Smith's "New Evidence Cheney Swayed Reaction to Leak" (Washington Post) takes you through the latest that's emerged as Barry O's Justice Dept argues the truth must be buried. One of their claims is that to allow Cheney's testimony during the Plamegate investigation to be known would prevent other vice presidents from offering testimony to a criminal investigation. Uh, no, it wouldn't. And if testimony means anything, it means that it's not buried out of fear of what might happened some day.

Barack's administration is not open, it's not trying to be open and is not attempting to put the US back on balance. It is attempting to continue all the abuses from the Bush administration. And it gets a lot of help from a cowardly Congress. (It's noted in the article that Congress once fought the Bush White House to make Cheney's testimony public. Not noted in the article is that any member of Congress could make Cheney's testimony public on the House or Senate floor.)
Back to Iraq, Biden is not the only official visiting Iraq.  Alsumaria reports that France's Prime Minister Francois Fillon met with Nouri al-Maliki and Jalal Talabani today with Fillon and Maliki doing a joint-press conference at Baghdad International Airport ". . . Fillon pointed out that Iraq is on the right track. No one should be worried over Iraq redress for it intends to cooperate with its neighbor and it constitutes an intergral part of the region's stability. France undertakes to help Iraq to reach stability as soon as possible, to resolve conflicts with its neighbor and to get fast result, Fillon said. He also added that France takes upon itself assisting Iraq to emancipate from international sanctions which hinder development process."  Xinhua reports the two "signed a cooperation agreement to promote bilateral economic, cultural and scientific relations.  According to the statement, the agreement stated that France comitted to support Iraq to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) and to conclude a partenership agreement with the European Union."  CCTV observes (link has text and video) that Fillon was heading a delegation of "30 high-level business executives" and quotes him stating, "It is high time now we look to the future.  The team accompanying me represents major French firms.  Currently we have firms working in Iraq in the field of transportation and airports."  At the start of the week, Jonas Gahr Storra met with Zebari.  Store is the Norewegian Foreign Affairs Minister.  Among the topics discussed were assisting Iraq in clearing land mines. Yesterday Patrick Quinn (AP) explained that the United Nations sees Iraq as "one of the world's most contaminated countries" when it comes to land mines and quotes the UN"s Development Fund's Kent Paulusson stating, "The government needs to recognize the size of the problem and deal with it. [. . .] Some areas are so contaminated that people can't live there."  CNN notes that UNICEF joined the UN Development Fund in drawing attention to the land mine problem in Iraq and notes UNICEF's report: "The report says about 1 million Iraqi children are at risk of being injured or killed by mines and unexploded ordnance.  Some 2,000 children -- a quarter of all victims -- have been maimed or killed by cluster bomblets since 2003, the report said."  Aseel Kami (Reuters) adds Iraq's Environment Ministry estimates there are 25 million land mines in Iraq and that the border between Iraq and Iran "is particularly mine-infested."  David Morgan (Global Arab Network) observes, "Vast stretches of potentially highly productive agricultural land cannot be cultivated because of the potentially lethal hazards presented by explosive materials that still lie undetected. Hundreds of Iraqi people continue to suffer injuries and dozens have been killed."
Today the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees notes a new "special residentail centre for Iraqi refugees in the southern Armenian village of Darbnik.  The building, a former agricultural college provided to UNHCR by the government last year, features 46 apartments and a social and recreation room.  It was rehabilitated by UNHCR implementing partner, YMCA/Shelter."  The Iraq War has resulted in a refugee crisis of both external and internal refugees. The refugees are a diverse group but a large number of them are Iraqi Christians.  The assault on Iraq's LGBT community has led to a number of them becoming refugees as well.  Sunday July 5th BBC Radio 5 airs Gay Life After Saddam (7 to 8 p.m. in England -- that will be eleven to noon PST). Ashley Byrne and Gail Champion produce the special for Made in Manchester.  James Chaperlard (Crain's Manchester Business) reports:
In Gay Life After Saddam, presenter Aasmah Mir finds out how life for the country's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community (LGBT), has got worse since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.                      
Human rights campaigners claim hundreds of LGBT people have been killed or tortured while others have fled the country fearing for their safety since Saddam was toppled from power six years ago.
Not noted in the article but among the people interviewed for the special is Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation.
At CounterPunch today, Anthony DiMaggio offers a look at Iraq and it's a serious attempt so he gets a link. I don't agree with the bulk of anything he says and feel he's repeating points that were made some time ago and that many don't hold up today. The continued and illegal occupation does stabilize Iraq. It puts into power the US interest, their puppets, and it blocks any real representation of Iraqis. It is not a sovereign government. It's one that would not exist were the US not still occupying the country.

The illegal war itself and the continued occupation breed violence but part of the breeding is not just resentment over the continued presence of the US, it's also resentment over the installation of the puppet government. The exiles placed in power (by the US) are not representative of Iraq.

The US took sides, installed one faction, a fundamentalist faction, and backed them because they believed this faction was ruthless and unafraid to resort to violence (the US was correct on both counts) and that these thugs would intimidate Iraqis into silence.

Violence has never gone away in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. But that doesn't mean the puppet regime doesn't 'stabilize' it to a point where the violence lowers slightly, just enough to lull people into looking the other way.

The 'civil war' wasn't a civil war. It was a genocide where the thugs in power went about ethnically cleansing parts of Baghdad. They succeeded. They did that with the whole world watching and with most of us not even grasping what was going on.

DiMaggio is taking on the continued presence of US forces and also disputing the idea that there's any level of 'stability' in Iraq currently. The resentment and rage goes beyond the presence of foreign fighters. It goes to the fact that the 'rulers' are exiles installed by the occupiers, not chosen by the people. And those 'rulers' do allow for a form of 'stability' but they do it by targeting the Iraqi civilians and by using terror tactics.

DiMaggio's argument's great for 2003 but it's completely out of step today because the people still pushing for continued war on and occupation of Iraq are not being countered with any claims DiMaggio's making. Their argument is that when the US leaves, violence levels will soar. DiMaggoi insists that US forces on the ground cause resentment and violence. That was true in 2003 and remains true today; however, we know more today and what he's saying isn't enough. It's not just the military, it's what they prop up, it's the 'government' the US has created.

The response to those who insist in 2009 that the illegal war must continue for stability is that no one knows what will happen when US forces leave but there's not a real government there now and claiming stability via a thug regime doesn't encourage democracy or allow US forces to ever leave. The government is not of the people and it doesn't represent them. It will always need force behind it to remain in power.

Lastly, the referendum on the Status Of Forces Agreement is not happening this month. It can't. It requires planning. The US stepped in and al-Maliki was more than happy to go along with it. The claim is it will now be held in January when national elections are held.  Alsumaria explains, "Meanwhile, the government seeks to delay the referendum till January 2010, when the country also holds parliamentary elections as holding both at the same time will save money.  In this concern, lawmakers and electoral authorities say there is no way a referendum can be organized in just a month."  Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "Attention here is now shifting to national elections expected in January. The elections are seen as the best hope for addressing the grievances of Iraqi factions that feel they've been left out of a political system created by the US and dominated since 2003 by a Shiite-led government."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul roadside bombing which injured three Iraqi soldiers and a Tikrit roadside bombing wounded one police officer.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person was shot dead in Mosul and "an officer in the Iraqi army called Saddam Hussein" was shot ded in Kirkuk.  Reuters notes "three judges who were traveling together in a car in northern Hilla" were injured in a shooting by unknown assailants.
Reuters notes 1 male corpse was discovered in Mosul and 1 female corpse in Hilla -- both has "bullet wounds to . . . head and chest".
Yesterday the US Defense Dept identified the four soldiers killed in Baghdad June 29th: "They were assigned to the 120th Combined Arms Battalion, Wilmington, N.C. Killed were: Sgt. 1st Class Edward C. Kramer, 39, of Wilmington, N.C. [;] Sgt. Roger L. Adams Jr., 36, of Jacksonville, N.C. [;] Sgt. Juan C. Baldeosingh, 30, of Newport, N.C. [and] Spc. Robert L. Bittiker, 39, of Jacksonville, N.C."  Jennifer McLogan (WCBS) speaks with Baldeosingh's sisters Jennyfer and Diana Baldeosingh.  Jennyfer states, "At first it's anger.  Why did he go?  Why him?"  Diana states, "Some of them have done two or three tours, they have families and kids, they need to be with them -- not over there.  We did our time there.  It's time to come home, please."  John Valenti and Sophia Chang (Newsday -- link has text and video) also speak with the two sisters and they note: "He also leaves behind his wife, Rebecca, and three young daughters -- Emily, 2, and 5-year-old twins, Isabella and Kylie." ENCToday speaks with Brian Wheat, the stepfather of Robert Bittiker and explains, "Bittiker leaves behind his wife Tami, and two sons Cameron, 14, and Ronnie, 18, who just graduated from Southwest High School".  The Salisbury Post notes Edward Kramer's wife Vicki issued a statement explaining, "He loved us very much and he did this for his children [Erica, age nine, and Megan, age seven] so they wouldn't have to".  Catherine M. Welch (WHQR) reports a Sunday event to remember Kramer, "A memorial walk is planned for Sunday at 6:00 p.m. It will start at the Wilmington Fire Department Headquarters on Marketstreet in downtown Wilmington and end at the National Guard Armory."  
Monday, July 13, The World Can't Wait and other organizations will protest the inclusion of military recruiters at the national NAACP Convention in New York City.         

4:30-7:00pm New York Hilton Hotel 1335 6th Avenue (53/54 Streets)
Also, on Thursday, July 16, when Barack Obama addresses the convention, we'll be there protesting the expanded war in Afghanistan, drone attacks on civilians in Pakistan, and Obama's refusal to release the torture photos and prosecute the Bush era war criminals. 9:30am until noon @ New York Hilton           

Read letter sent by NYC High School student to Benjamin Jealous, CEO of the NAACP, asking him why recruiters are invited to the convention.              

Sign on to letter to be sent to the officers and Board of the NAACP this week:
To Benjamin Jealous, President & CEO, NAACP