Monday, August 24, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Monday, August 24, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, Cindy Sheehan gears up to protest the War Hawk president, a new 'change' on prisoners held by the US in secret really isn't a change and it says a great deal about the press (Big and Small) that they don't bother to tell you that, a new Shi'ite bloc forms but without Nouri, in the US 'brave' House Dems on the 'public option' aren't so brave according to Perry Bacon Jr. (they're eager to jump ship according to him), and more.
Today in Iraq, the media's attention is drawn to Kut.  Outside the city, two bus bombings took place.  Reuters says 11 are dead and, citing police sources, that the number may be 20.  Al Jazeera gives the number wounded as twenty-five. BBC says the police are now insisting the death toll is 11.  Marc Santora (New York Times) quotes bus passenger, Minem Salman stating, "I managed to get out from the window but all the others were burning.  I couldn't help them."  AFP states that the bombings took place "within half an hour of each other" and quotes police Lt Mohammed Fadhil stating they were sticky bombs.  CBS and AP have the bombs exploding "minutes apart".  Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) adds that a Baghdad roadside bombing left four police officers wounded.
Sunday the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier died Aug. 23, from combat-related injuries while conducting a patrol in Baghdad. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The names of service members killed in action are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Website at 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 Department of Defense. The incident is currently under investigation."  The announcement brought the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4334.
This follows last week's violence which Third pointed out resulted in 211 reported deaths and 950 wounded. ("Last Sunday saw 13 reported dead and 41 reported injured. Monday saw 24 dead 59 wounded. Tuesday the reported death toll was 5 and 24 were reported injured. Wednesday 102 were reported dead and 572 wounded. By Thursday evening, 22 were reported dead with 67 injured. Thursday night 33 more deaths were reported and 145 wounded. Friday saw 8 deaths reported and 31 people wounded. Saturday saw 4 dead 11." Note that the US military announced the deaths of two US service members last week and they aren't included in the daily counts for last week in this parenthetical.)  Wednesday's deaths were mainly from the Baghdad bombings which were largely an attack on the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry.  Today Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports Hoshyar Zebari, Foreign Minister of Iraq, "held meetings [Saturday] in a makeshift reception room with plastic sheeting for walls.  Iraqi officials with their heads bandaged walked the halls exchanging news of more servely wounded colleagues" and that "10 percent of the ministry staff [was] injured or killed."  She also notes, "Iraqi officials, who almost instantly announced arrests after the attacks, have given conflicting reports about how it was carried out, but all have blamed Baath Party loyalists for planning the bombing and Al Qaeda operatives for carrying it out."  Saturday, Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, appeared on Iraqi TV.  Reuters quotes him stating, "I want to tell the Iraqi people we are still in an open war against them.  I reassure the Iraqi people that the security forces can still keep up the battle and achieve victory despite breaches here and there."  Reuters states "them" in the first sentence was supposed to refer to "terrorists."  Zebari was also making public statements on Saturday.  Khalid al-Ansary, Muhanad Mohammed, Michael Christie and Andrew Roche (Reuters) explained he denounced Nouri's previous decision (now on hold) to take down the Bremer walls throughout Baghdad and that he noted how it appeared to him that there was collaboration between whomever planned Wednesday's bombing attacks in Baghdad and Iraqi security forces. He is quoted stating, "According to our information, there has even been collaboration between security officers and the murderers and killers."  While that was taking place, Liz Sly and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) reported on the Baghdad govenment announcing arrests which allegedlly took place "hours after the attacks Wednesday".  Chip Cummins and Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) reported that leaders of Parliament met on Firday (the press was kept out and the meeting was not televised).  Meanwhile an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy (at Inside Iraq) pointed out the obvious, "Several people I talked to in Fallujah and Baghdad are full of doubt.  They wonder how a truck loaded with more than one ton of explosives could escape more than 200 checkpoints throughout Baghdad?! If you are driving your car in Baghdad there will be one way to escape checkpoints without being searched properly, I mean after the explosive detectors point to your car, and that way is to show them a badge.  A badge of an officer will be the perfect way. The fact that there were officers of the presidential guards involved in a bank theft and killing eight guards at the end of last month made people suspect anything."  It's being called "Iraq's 9-11" by Iraqi officials and by US Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill while others are referring to it as "Black Wednesday." Click here for CNN video on Wednesday's attack.  Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) spoke with Haider Chasibi whose home is near the Foreign Ministry and has experienced damages from three bombings on the Foreign Ministry in the last four years.  He tells Ashton, "Next time it will fall on our heads and kill us.  It cannot take another explosion." 
Yesterday, the Baghdad-based government trotted out a suspect with the latest in their televised 'confessions'.  This morning Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) serves up "Iraq Military Broadcasts Confession on Bombing" because Myers and the Times love forced confessions and are working overtime to become state media in Iraq.  Real news outlets are less quick to swallow. Reuters headlined their story "Iraq shows video it says is confession of bomber." BBC goes with "Iraqi 'bomber confession' aired." Myers pants: "In brief, edited excerpts of videotaped remarks, the man, identified as Wisam Ali Khazim Ibrahim, calmly explained how he had organized one of the two bombings, which killed almost 100 people on Wednesday and wounded hundreds more." In the best Judy Miller style, it waits until paragraph five to point out that the 'testimony' cannot "be confirmed independently".  Big surprise, the likely forced confession fingers Ba'athists (in Syria!!!!) for the attack. But here's the thing, if the confession was genuine, wasn't it stupid to air it?  Iraq's not announced any other ringleaders and presumably were the 'confessor' telling the truth and doing so of his own accord, he would have supplied the names of all involved. Or are we not supposed to notice that?  So shouldn't the 'confession' have been kept under wraps until after the Iraqi government announced a series of arrests?  Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports that "many Iraqis expressed skepticism about the claims to CNN, asking why the government had the intelligence to make the arrests so quickly but was unable to prevent the attacks.  In some previous incidents, the Iraqi government has announced arrests and aired confessions that did not hold up. In April, it claimed it had captured Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq's umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq.  The Islamic State of Iraq denied it, and the capture was never confirmed by the U.S. military."  Of the 'confessor,' Jane Arraf notes he "appeared strangely composed" and she also notes reports that some Sunni MPs may be arrested shortly. Oliver August (Times of London) adds, "Opposition politicians voiced doubt last night that the real perpetrators had been caught and asked if the confession was made under torture."
Meanwhile Alsumaria reports, "In a meeting with ministers, MPs, scholars and tribal Sheikhs, Prime Minister Al Maliki noted that some politicians cashing on Iraq attacks saps national interest of the country." Cashing in? On security? Nouri wants to play that card? Really? Who rushed to take credit for security previously? I believe that was Nouri. Now that the situation is different, suddenly he's concerned that some might make political hay out of 'security'. Now he's concerned. Poor Nouri. Ernesto Londono reports at the Washington Post that a Shi'ite coalition of politcal parties does not include Nouri. Apparently, they didn't want him to play in their reindeer games. This was made clear when they refused to promise that they'd re-appoint Nouri as Prime Minister should they secure the needed majority in the January 2010 elections. The New York Times repeately fails to grasp that last part: the prime minister is not elected by the people. Londono reports that the new coalition is thought to have closer ties with Iran.
Turning to the non-Change administration in the US. Yesterday Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported the US government wants credit for allegedly supplying information on prisoners they are holding "in secret at detention camps in Afghanistan and Iraq" -- and it's more smoke and mirrors from Barack.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Sometimes!) will play the fool all her life as she again demonstrated this by mangling what took place in her headlines, "The new disclosure took effect this month after years of denying the Red Cross access to the prisoners."  Reading's hard for the likes of Amy Goodman or maybe it's just the latest in her strained relationship with the facts.  Regardless, for any 'information' the government's supplying the Red Cross to be solid, it needs to be verifiable. It's not. DeYoung explained -- PAY ATTENTION, AMY GOODMAN -- that the US government "will continue to deny the" International Committee of the Red Cross "access to the prisoners". BBC explains, "Despite the change in policy, Red Cross officials are still not getting access to the highly secretive sites - something they do get at most other US military detention centres." Eric Schmitt (New York Times) makes the same point and adds, "The New York Times reported in 2006 that some soldiers at the temporary detention site in Iraq, then located at Baghdad International Airport and called Camp Nama, beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces, and used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball."  David Schaper (NPR) reports that Gen David Petraeus is responsible for the 'change'.
Recapping: The Barack administration says the Red Cross will be denied access to the secret prisons but they will supply the Red Cross with the names of the prisoners they are detaining. For those who don't recall, the previous administration tried this song and dance of offering similar 'bargains' with human rights groups. It was crap then and it's crap now. Nothing has changed in the White House.  Though Amy Goodman is unable to comprehend what she reads, many more can't even recall five years ago.  June 17, 2004, PBS' NewsHour was exploring the issue of 'off the books' prisoners (link has text, audio and video options) and before Ray Suarez began the discussion, a clip of then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld holding a press conference was played.
Donald Rumsfeld: I was requested by the Director of Central Intelligence to take custody of an Iraqi national who was believed to be a high-ranking member of Ansar Al-Islam, and we did so.  We were asked to not immediatelly register the individual, and we did that.  It would . . . it was . . . he was brought to the attention of the department, the senior level of the department I think late last month, and we're in the process of registering him with the ICRC at the present time.
Thanks, Donnie, that fixed everything.  Of course it didn't.  It never did and this happened over and over.  You can pick multiple instances under the previous administration when this issue resulted in the nonsense Barack just issued.  But back then, people were a little smarter.  Barack's still continuing the policy of refusing to allow the Red Cross access.  He didn't change anything.  Now, supposedly, the hide-away prisoners will be registered but, supposedly, that was already supposed to be happening under the previous administration and, when caught, they'd assure that from this moment foward, starting and starting now, they were going to let the Red Cross know about prisoners.  On that 2004 segment of The NewsHour, Ray Suarez spoke with US News and World Reports' Edward pound who outlined the way it's supposed to be.
Edward Pound: Well, what is normally done with these detainees in Iraq and in any other facility where we have these detention facilities around the world and what other countries are supposed to do is when a prisoner comes in, he is registered and put into an electronic database and given a serial number.  That information is provided to the Red Cross.  The Red Cross then is allowed to come to this facility and interview this prisoner and check on the conditions.
Is that complicated?  Is that hard to follow or difficult to comprehend?  No?  Then let's face the obvious fact that the Barack Obama administration is doing the same smoke and mirrors dance of the previous administration and it is not in compliance.  The Red Cross is supposed to be able to visit the facility and to interview the prisoner.  DeYoung reported  that the US government "will continue to deny the ICRC access to the prisoners" which means they are in noncompliance.  This is not something to praise or to read with a stupid grin on your face the way Amy Goodman did.  It's something to be appalled by. 
And we were appalled by it under the previous administration.  On The NewsHour's May 12, 2006 broadcast, Ray Suarez included in this news summary, "The International Committee of the Red Cross sharply criticized the U.S. today over terror suspects held in secret. The agency's president said in a statement: 'No matter how legitimate the grounds for detention, there exists no right to conceal a person's whereabouts'."  As the BBC noted that day, "The Geneva Conventions says the ICRC should be allowed to visit prisoners-of-war."  As usual, Amy Goodman was a little slow.  But May 15, 2006, she did stumble across the story and, her face telegraphing serious outrage, read the following, "The International Committee of the Red Cross is accusing the Bush administration of ignoring requests from the organization to have access to detainees being held in secret U.S. jails around the world."  Hey, Goody-Goody, no one has to accuse the Barack administration of refusing access, they're admitting to it.  How about a little outrage from the People's Republic of Brooklyn, hmmm?
Barack Obama has landed on Martha's Vineyard and is vacationing.  Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan lands tomorrow and begins taking part in a demonstration:
From her home in California, Ms. Sheehan released this statement:
"There are several things that we wish to accomplish with this protest on Martha's Vineyard.                   
First of all, no good social or economic change will come about with the continuation or escalation of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We simply can't afford to continue this tragically expensive foreign policy.
Secondly, we as a movement need to continue calling for an immediate end to the occupations even when there is a Democrat in the Oval Office. There is still no Noble Cause no matter how we examine the policies.              
Thirdly, the body bags aren't taking a vacation and as the US led violence surges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so are the needless deaths on every side.
And, finally, if the right-wing can force the government to drop any kind of public option or government supported health care, then we need to exert the same kind of pressure to force a speedy end to the occupations."         
Cindy Sheehan will arrive on the Vineyard on Tuesday, August 25th.
For more information, or to request an interview with Cindy Sheehan please contact:          
Laurie Dobson                             604-8988                   
Bruce Marshall              767-6079                       
Good for Cindy.  Sad for those thinking Congress Dems 'libs' -- who swore they'd end the illegal war -- are going to save the (weak) public option in ObamaInsuranceCare.  No, we're not talking about "Blue Dogs," we're talking about those 'progressives.'  We'll get to it, hold on.  First, John J. Monahan (Worcester Telegram & Gazette) reports on US House Rep Jim McGovern and notes that the timeline the Barack Obama administration is using is not one he endorses: "They are talking about leaving a pretty significant force behind and I'm worried about that.  [. . . .] We still have 30,000 troops in Korea.  We are going to leave 50,000 troops in Iraq.  How do we sustain that?  I think we need to get out of Iraq and let them run their own country."  Barack's 'plan' is, of course, Bush's plan.  And we weren't thrilled about when it was Bush's plan so why do so many support it today?  Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway (at the Financial Times of London) write about the proposed vote (in Iraq)  on the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement and they walk you through some of the now forgotten US history on that:
In contrast, George W. Bush defied the US constitution by insisting that he -- and he alone -- could commit the US to the Iraqi agreement. He refused to ask Congress to approve it even though the American constitution -- like the Iraqi one -- requires legislative consent. He even refused to give Congress any information about the agreement's terms until the deal was done. Leading congressmen were forced to follow the negotiations by reading English translations of Arabic texts published in Iraqi newspapers.
Joseph Biden, who was then chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, responded by introducing legislation declaring that the bilateral agreement with Iraq "should involve a joint decision by the executive and legislative branches". Hillary Clinton, then a senator, went further, asserting that it was "outrageous that the Bush administration would seek to circumvent the US Congress on a matter of such vital interest to national security". Her bill would have denied all funding to any military agreement that Mr Bush negotiated unilaterally.           
Mrs Clinton's bill gained the support of nine co-sponsors, including Barack Obama, also then a senator. Mr Obama continued his opposition during the autumn presidential campaign, insisting that Mr Bush's agreement "should be subject to Congressional review to ensure it has bipartisan support here at home". Indeed, Mr Obama and Mr Biden campaigned for a more rapid withdrawal than Mr Bush was contemplating. They set the summer of 2010, not the winter of 2011, as their deadline.
And this is the White House 'plan' for Iraq?  The person sitting in the Oval Office may have changed but the 'plan' remained the same.  Oona Hathaway and Bruce Ackerman wrote about this earlier this year for the San Francisco Chronicle.  (That was not the first time they addressed the issue, but the Chronicle column was directed to the then-incoming administration.)
Now to health care and we'll bring it back around to veterans health care, bear with me. The Washington Post's Perry Bacon Jr. appeared online today in a chat and we'll note two things from it (as a personal favor to a friend).  Discussing ObamaInsuranceCare, Bacon blogged the following about the 65 members of the US House who have publicly stated "no public option, we won't support it:"
I have real doubts 65 house members are going to vote against a bill that would expand health insurance to millions of Americans if it doesn't have a public option. I consider this a threat and a negotiating tactic. I've talked to a few of these members who have signed this letter, and they don't seem as committed to a public option as you would think. Reconciliation is one route; I think the more obvious route remains a bill with no public option that gets the votes of Snowe, Collins, and a few other Republicans.  
[. . .]
The House liberals want a public option in their bill in part because that becomes a bargaining chip; it means that if they drop that as part of the bill, they may not have to drop other issues they care about. If any Republicans back the Senate version, those changes are likely to be protected in the conference. And if neither chamber can pass a bill in the first place, an increasingly likely possibility, that of course is a big story.
The current health care debate in Congress has nothing to do with death panels or public options or socialized medicine. The real debate, the only one that counts, is how much money our blood-sucking insurance, pharmaceutical and for-profit health services are going to be able to siphon off from new health care legislation. The proposed plans rattling around Congress all ensure that the profits for these corporations will increase and the misery for ordinary Americans will be compounded. The corporate state, enabled by both Democrats and Republicans, is yet again cannibalizing the Treasury. It is yet again pushing Americans, especially the poor and the working class, into levels of despair and rage that will continue to fuel the violent, proto-fascist movements leaping up around the edges of American society. And the traditional watchdogs -- those in public office, the press and citizens groups -- are as useless as the perfumed fops of another era who busied their days with court intrigue at Versailles. Canada never looked so good.
The Democrats are collaborating with lobbyists for the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and for-profit health care providers to craft the current health care reform legislation. "Corporate and industry players are inside the tent this time," says David Merritt, project director at Newt Gingrich's Center for Health Transformation, "so there is a vacuum on the outside." And these lobbyists have already killed a viable public option and made sure nothing in the bills will impede their growing profits and capacity for abuse.
"It will basically be a government law that says you have to buy their defective product," says Dr. David Himmelstein, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a founder of Physicians for a National Health Plan. "Next the government will tell us a Pinto in every garage, a lead-coated toy to every child and melamine-laced puppy chow for every dog."
"Health insurance is not a race to the top; it is a race to the bottom," he told me from Cambridge, Mass. "The way you make money is by abusing people. And if a public-option plan is not ready and willing to abuse patients it is stuck with the expensive patients. The premiums will go up until it is noncompetitive. The conditions that have now been set for the plans include a hobbled public option. Under the best-case scenario there will be tens of millions [who] will remain uninsured at the outset, and the number will climb as more and more people are priced out of the insurance market."
Related, In today's Boston Globe, Bryan Bender reports on veterans of the Iraq War and Afghanistan War who are reluctant to participate in studies. Experts insist it's the stigma but it might just be the screw-you nature has gotten to them. For example, using a 'technique' tried out on grade school children as the 'answer' to PTSD? Insulting. Insulting and not applicable. That's when you stretch a field to the point that it breaks. When you're taking studies on unsuspecting children (raising a whole other set of issues) and attempt to apply it to the battlefield. In terms of logic, this would fall under the always ridiculed by the MSM inductive reasoning. But you didn't see anyone question it last week, did you? Of course not. When the goverment pimps it, the press waves cash.  Today the Dept of Veterans Affairs announced that compensation claims for PTSD would be simplified: "The VA is publishing a proposed regulation today in the Federal Register to make it easier for a Veteran to claim service connection for PTSD by reducing the evidence needed if the stressor claimed by a Veteran is related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity.  Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted over the next 60 days.  A final regulation will be published after consideration of all comments received. Under the new rule, VA would not require corroboration of a stressor related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity if a VA psychiatrist or psychologist confirms that the stressful experience recalled by a Veteran adequately supports a diagnosis of PTSD and the Veteran's symptoms are related to the claimed stressor."
We're not the Afghanistan snapshot, but as a favor to another friend, we'll note the opening of this item from Feminist Majority Foundation's Feminist Wire Daily:
The Taliban allegedly cut off the fingers of at least two Afghan women that voted in last week's presidential election. Election officials confirmed that the two women voted in the southern province of Kandahar and that they are investigating reports of a third incident in the eastern part of the country, reported Los Angeles Times. Voters' right index fingers were dipped in ink in an intended fraud prevention measure.        
According to the
National Democratic Institute, extremist election-day violence erupted primarily in the south and southeast regions of Afghanistan, particularly repressing voter turnout among women. Across the country, at least 650 women's polling stations never opened, in part because there was a dearth of women to staff the locations. Nader Nadery, president of the Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan told the Associated Press.