Monday, September 14, 2009. Chaos andence continue, Barack finds a new apologist, the US military announces another death, Nouri fails to disclose income, a contractor is killed in Iraq, Chris Hill 'forgot' a few things when testifying to Congress, and more.
As the world watches, a surprisig member of the Cult of St. Barack emerges. Jonathan Adams (Christian Science Monitor) reports a new tape, allegedly from alleged 9-11 ringleader Osama bin Laden has been released, maintains that US President Barack Obama has made George W. Bush's Iraq and Afghanistan Wars his own because Barack is "powerless" and, apparently, controlled by a some nefarious, worldwide Jewish lobby. Oooooh. He so scary. And so original. I mean, no one's ever attempted to allege a Jewish conspiracy before, right? No one ever mistook him for a brain but, even for him, this is something. The president of the United States is one of the most powerful positions in the world. In the last 100 years, it's pretty much been the most powerful position in the world. Whether Barack Obama uses the power wisely, poorly or not at all remains to be seen but he's not some lowly backbencher in the British Parliament. Claiming otherwise is as insane as insisting there's some international world conspiracy. Insane's really doesn't capture it. It's beyond insane, it's hate-riddled. It's a hatred for others that makes you insist there's some Jewish cabal and it's a hatred for others that makes you insist someon's preventing Barack Obama -- a grown man with a mind of his own -- from doing exactly what he wants to. Osama bin Laden's so insane, he should get his own Pacifica Radio program. From the Firehouse Studio. James Carroll (Boston Globe) writes of Barack's Wednesday speech: "The elephants in the congressional chamber last week were not the scowling Republicans, but Iraq and Afghanistan, neither of which was mentioned. [. . .] In Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is headed toward his own dubious election, coming in January, as his Shiite coalition crumbles, Sunnis openly sympathize with insurgents, and Kurdish alienation adds to the decentralized chaos. Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces are overwhelmed by renewed violence and the US determination to keep the three blocs together in one nation is overseen by Vice President Joe Biden, who spent the two years of his presidential campaign passionately denouncing the idea."
Today the Defense Department announced Duane A. Thornsbury died in Baghdad on Saturday from "injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over." Like so many service members' deaths, DoD adds, "The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation." If you look for the Multi-National Force announcement, you'll be looking in vain. They never announced the death -- the most important duty they are tasked with is announcing the deaths, DoD is responsible for putting a name to the fallen after families have been notified. They made five announcements on Saturday and two on Sunday but the death just wasn't important enough for them. The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4344. Maria St. Louis-Sanchez (Colorado Springs Gazette) reports Duane Thornsbury was no his third deployment to Iraq and had previously served there in 2003 and 2007. Jessika Lewis (State Journal) adds that he "enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves back in April 1996 and came onto active duty service in September 2002".
In the United States on Sunday there was a memorial service for seven soldiers who died September 17, 2008. From the September 18th snapshot:
Turning to Iraq, last night CNN reported that a helicopter has crashed in Iraq claiming the lives of 5 US service members. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) said the death toll is "seven U.S. soldiers" and cites M-NF as the source. M-NF updated it today announcing: "Seven U.S. Soldiers were killed when a CH-47 Chinook crashed about 100 km west of Basra at approximately 12:01 a.m. Thursday. The Chinook was part of a four-aircraft aerial convoy flying from Kuwait to Balad. The seven Soldiers were the only ones onboard the Chinook at the time of the crash. A British Quick Reaction Force team was dispatched from Basra to assist at the site. A road convoy in the vicinity was also diverted to the scene.
The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin and official release by the Department of Defense The incident is under investigation, however enemy activity is not suspected." The Washington Post notes, "There was no word on the cause of the crash or whether hostile fire was involved." Camilla Hall and Michael Heath (Bloomberg News) report that the military is now publicly stating that this should be considered "an accident" on their 'initial' information but that the US military added, "At this time we are uncertain of the cause, but hostile fire has been ruled out." Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) observes, "In total, that means 11 U.S. service members have died since Sunday for non-combat-related reasons" while noting the helicopter crash itself "was the deadliest U.S. helicopter accident in Iraq since Aug. 22 of last year, when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in the northern part of the country, killing 14 U.S. soldiers."
Joseph Giordono (Stars & Stripes) notes, "The AP reported that an aide to U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Okla., said four Texans and three from Oklahoma were among the seven National Guardsmen killed in [the helicopter crash[ . . . Fallin's spokesman Alex Weintz says the four Texans killed were soldiers from the Texas National Guard." ICCC lists 4168 as the number of US service members killed since the start of the illegal war with 17 for the month thus far.
The seven who died in the September 2008 helicopter crash were Corry A. Edwards, Robert Vallejo II, Anthony Luke Mason, Brady J. Rudolf, Julio Ordonez, Daniel Eshbaugh and Michael E. Thompson. Chris Vaughn (Fort Worth Star-Telegram via Houston Chronicle) reports on yesterday's Texas ceremony, "Under a constant and soaking rain, the last of their remains were buried in a single battleship-gray casket at the top of a hill in the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, a fitting end, some said, because of their close relationship while alive." Jeffrey Weiss (Dallas Morning News) explains of the Army National Guard's 2-149 General Support Aviation Battalion's ceremony, "Ten weeks after their tour of Iraq formally ended, they assembled to celebrate their successes and surivavl -- and to mourn seven members of the unite who died in a helicopter crash weeks after arriving in Iraq. [. . .] More than 500 people -- family, freinds, comrades and fellow citizens -- braved Sunday's downpour for a brief graveside service at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery then gathered for a set of prayers inside a hangar at the National Guard base where the unit is headquartered."
Yesterday's ceremony for the seven who died in the helicopter crash took place on the same day a US helicopter came under fire in Mosul. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "the U.S. military returned fire killing one insurgent. The police responded to the situation and engaged the insurgents in a fire fight killing two more insurgents and captured another. Two policemen were killed during this confrontation." In other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people (including one police officer), another Baghdad roadside bombing which injured one person, a Baquba car bombing whcih wounded four people (two Iraqi service members), a Baquba roadside bombing which killed 1 man and injured his son, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left seven more wounded and another Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 woman and wounded her daughter.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an armed attack on an Iraqi military checkpoint which resulted in the death of 1 Iraqi soldier. Reuters notes a Jurf al-Sakhar home invasion in which the family of a police officer were ordered to leave the home, the police officer was shot dead and the house was set on fire and they drop back to last night to note an attack on a Jurf al-Sakhar police checkpoint which resulted in the death of 1 police officer and two more being injured.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a woman studying at the Institute of Technology in Kirkuk was kidnapped yesterday.
The Jurf al-Sakhar home invasion today recalls another assault on a police officer's home yesterday. Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reported a home invasion in which four members of a family were killed (assailants used silencers) and David Rising (AP) added the home belonged to a police officer (Sgt Omed Abdul-Hamid) who was not home and his wife and three kids were killed "execution-style" in their sleep. Ned Parker and Ali Windawi (Los Angeles Times) explain the children were ages 2, 4 and 6 and quote the father stating, "I was astonished when I found my family, my wife and three children were killed while they were in their bed. Oh my God, may you take revenge on the killers . . . What is the guilt of my son Mohammed and he is an infant! What is the guilt of my small daughters?" The four deaths were among the 22 reported Sunday (26 people were reported injured). Yesterday, at The Third Estate Sunday Review, we noted the reported deaths for last week were 136 (230 reported wouned) ("On Sunday, there were 24 reported deaths and 7 reported wounded, Monday 26 dead and 44 wounded, Tuesday 27 dead and 42 wounded, Wednesday 13 dead and 38 wounded, Thursday 31 dead and 75 wounded, Friday 4 dead and 7 wounded and Saturday 11 dead and 27 wounded.").
In Iraq, politicians are supposed to disclose all income. Despite that requirement, few do. The following positions have not made their financial disclosures (from 2006 through today, no disclosure): President, both Vice Presidents, Prime Minister, both Deputy Prime Ministers, Speaker of Parliament, Second Deputy of the Speaker, Minister of the Interior, Minister of Defense, Minister of Finance, Minister of Planning and the Governor of the Iraqi Central Bank. All have ignored the law demanding disclosures. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy reports on the failure to disclose and also explains, "The 2008 report of the Iraqi integrity commission, the governmental anti-corruption watchdog body, said that corruption cases totaling $1.3 billion were pardoned, and most of it came from the Iraqi ministry of defense. The $1.3 billion is the value of only 11% of the corruption cases that were pardoned in 2008 -- the others didn't have a dollar value given -- and the number of defendants involved in corruption cases who were pardoned in 2008 is 2,772 defendants."
Nouri al-Maliki would be the prime minister who has refused to report his income. Last week, US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill testified to Congress (see Thursday's snapshot here, Friday's here and Kat's post here). Appearing Thursday afternoon before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Hill faced questions from the Committee Chair John Kerry.
John Kerry: Mr. Ambassador, Syria and Iraq had indicated a willingness to try to cooperate on the borders and deal with the foreign fighter issue which is very much in our interest and we've been pushing that on both sides. But the bombings on August 19th have now seen, you know sort of an explosion between the two countries, they've pulled their ambassadors and uh traded recriminations so where do we stand on that? What if anything can be done to end that? Will Turkish mediation make a difference? Is that the thing that we should be advocating at this point? And what do you think is the process for getting back to the place that we'd hoped to be.
Chris Hill: Well, I uh think we would like to see Iraq and uh Syria have a good relationship and it was rather ironic that on August 18th -- that is one day before the bombing -- Prime Minister [Nouri al-] Maliki was in Damascus and they signed a number of economic agreements. Uh, obviously, things are -- things are in a difficult state and things are frankly on hold right now through this uh, through this uh down turn n the relationship. The Iraqis are very concerned about the fact that some senior Ba'athist leaders went and found refuge in Syria and remain in Syria. And the Iraqis have understandably called for their return to-to Iraq. That issue needs to be, frankly, needs to be worked through.
No, he doesn't know the meaning of "irony," nor does he know how to tell the truth. There was nothing "ironic" about Nouri's visit to Damascus and, in fact, his actions in Damascus were exactly his actions following August 18th. What Chris Hill couldn't get honest about, David Ignatius (Washington Post) explained yesterday:
An example of the tricky regional dynamic is Syria. The Obama administration has been working carefully to rebuild U.S.-Syrian relations. Representatives of Central Command made two visits to Damascus this summer to discuss security cooperation on Iraq. This led to a tentative agreement that U.S. and Syrian military representatives would meet Aug. 20 on the Iraq-Syria border. U.S. officials proposed including Iraq, as well.
Not so fast, protested Maliki. He warned Chris Hill, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, that policing Iraq's border was an issue for Iraq, not America.
When Maliki visited Damascus on Aug. 18, he told President Bashar al-Assad that he opposed the Syrian-American plan to discuss Iraqi security and would boycott the Aug. 20 session. Maliki also demanded that Assad turn over Baathist leaders who were living in Syria. Assad refused, saying that these Baathists had opposed Saddam Hussein's regime and posed no threat. The Maliki-Assad summit meeting "was a failure," says one Arab official.
US tax payers paid for Chris Hill to return to the US and appear before Congress. They paid Congress' electricity bill for the lights and air conditioning as Hill tesitified. It would have been a lot more productive and a lot less expensive if they'd just hired a limo to bring David Ignatius to Congress and let him testify.
August 18th, Nouri was blustering and threatening Syria. He's continued to do so. AFP reports that Nouri plans to send a delegation to Turkey tomorrow with alleged evidence of Syria's involvement in the August 19th bombings. Turkey rules Syria? No. But Nouri's gotten no where with bullying Syria and now he wants to run to a third-party like a little tattle-tale. Tattle-tales are usually cowards and Nouri is a coward. He's one of the exiles the US installed. Nouri fled Iraq like a little coward many, many years ago. He was part of the group calling for the US to invade and, after they did, 'brave' Nouri put a little concealer over the yellow streak down his back and tip-toed back into Iraq. Chris Hill explained to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Nouri considers himself an expert on Syria because he hid out there for 18 years. AP reports that Nouri is actually demanding that Syria hand over 179 people.
Though he lives to bully Syria, Nouri won't lift a finger to stop the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community. The criminals Nouri claims to be unable to find are part of a major report by Afif Sarhan and Jason Burke (The Observer):
Sitting on the floor, wearing traditional Islamic clothes and holding an old notebook, Abu Hamizi, 22, spends at least six hours a day searching internet chatrooms linked to gay websites. He is not looking for new friends, but for victims.
"It is the easiest way to find those people who are destroying Islam and who want to dirty the reputation we took centuries to build up," he said. When he finds them, Hamizi arranges for them to be attacked and sometimes killed.
Hamizi, a computer science graduate, is at the cutting edge of a new wave of violence against gay men in Iraq. Made up of hardline extremists, Hamizi's group and others like it are believed to be responsible for the deaths of more than 130 gay Iraqi men since the beginning of the year alone.
The deputy leader of the group, which is based in Baghdad, explained its campaign using a stream of homophobic invective. "Animals deserve more pity than the dirty people who practise such sexual depraved acts," he told the Observer. "We make sure they know why they are being held and give them the chance to ask God's forgiveness before they are killed."
Over the weekend Nouri did get some news to please him. Khalid al-Ansary, Tim Cocks and Matthew Jones (Reuters) report that Nouri's cabinet "approved a draft law paving the way for national elections" which would allow voters to select individual candidates and "not just parties" -- a major gift to Nouri who has been excluded from the new (and largest) Shi'ite coalition.
Meanwhile, AP reported yesterday that KBR contractor Lucas Vinson was shot dead on Camp Speicher (US base in Iraq) and a US soldier stands accused of the shooting. Tim Cocks and Ralph Boulton (Reuters) added the unnamed US soldier has been arrested in the shooting.
". . . in Iraq the bombings continue, the electricity is still out a lot of the time, most of the millions of refugees have yet to return, the internally displaced remain internally displaced, and the political equation is very much up in the air." That's David Finkel, author of the new book The Good Soldiers, from an online discussion at the Washington Post website today. Here's one exchange:
Boston: In reading your heartwrenching story about 2-16 and the death of Joshua Reeves, I am saddened by the juxtaposition of that story (and thousands more like it) with the detached and seemingly breezy decision by Cheney/Rumsfeld/Bush to pursue war in Iraq in the days and months after 9-11 (as chronicled by other Post writers' books), using that American tragedy as an opportunity to initiate this war of choice. That being said, and given the reality of our presence in Iraq, what factors will historians look at to determine if the surge was successful strategically instead of putting a temporary band-aid on an inevitable civil war at great cost of lives and treasure to the US and lack of strategic flexibility in Afghanistan during this time?
David Finkel: Thanks for this comment and question, Boston. I wish I knew the answer. Did the surge work? Was it the addition of troops that seems to have made a difference? Was it the fact that most neighborhoods had been pretty well cleansed by the time the surge began? Was it the effort, especially in the Sunni areas west of Baghdad, by Iraqis who turned against al-Qaeda? In eastern Baghdad, was it the cease fire announced by Muqtada al-Sadr? Some day, I hope, historians will be able to tease all this apart. What I can tell you from what I saw between April 2007 and April 2008 is that a lot of soldiers went there believing they would be the difference and by the end -- when everything collapsed around them in the worst week of war they endured -- a lot of them didn't think that at all.
The Good Soldiers is released tomorrow and you can read an excerpt of it right now at the Washington Post. While Finkel attempts to report some of what he saw, David M. Tafuri (Business Week) is whoring to the point that you find yourself longing for a vice raid. Tafuri tries to convince people to hop the plane and head off to Iraq with
Doing business in Iraq does not have to be scary. In July, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the U.S., and part of his mission was to convince American companies to invest in his country. He made the case that security has improved substantially. By any measure, he is correct.
By any measure, Nouri is wrong. By any measure he was wrong in July, by all measures he is wrong today and someone might want to purchase a subscription to a daily paper for Tafuri but then we'd still have to find someone to read it to him. August was the deadliest month for Iraqis in the last 13 months. Tafuri should be ashamed but business whores are very good at burying their shame and turning it into violence aimed at others.
Independent journalist David Bacon reviews a new book, Solidarity Divided co-written by Fernando Gapasin, at Monthly Review:
Through the 1980s I was a union organizer and activist in our Bay Area labor anti-apartheid committee. As we picketed ships carrying South African cargo, and recruited city workers to support the African National Congress (then called a terrorist organization by both the U.S. and South Africa), I looked at South African unions with great admiration.
The South African Congress of Trade Unions, banned in the 1950s, had found ways to organize African and Colored workers underground, to support a liberation struggle in a broad political alliance. Heroic SACTU leaders like Vuysile Mini gave their lives on the scaffold for freedom. Then, as apartheid tottered and eventually fell, SACTU unions became the nucleus of a new federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions. With roots in that liberation war, it declared socialism as its goal, and still does today.
COSATU unions prize rank-and-file control over their elected leaders, and engage members in long and thorough discussions of the country's development plans. The labor federation has the most sophisticated political strategy of any union in the world today - balanceing a leading role in the tripartite alliance that governs South Africa with independence of program and action, even striking to force policies that put the needs of workers before the neoliberal demands of the World Bank. Jacob Zuma owes his election as president of South Africa today to South African labor.
As an organizer during the same period I worked with many others to force our own labor movement to recognize that organizing new members and changing our politics was necessary for survival at home. If we could double our size (at least), I thought, we'd have more power, while the streetheat generated by the intense conflict organizing creates would set the stage for political transformation. Needless to say, that transformation process turned out to be much more complicated than I expected.
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. Bacon is also on KFPA's The Morning Show today (each Wednesday) discussing labor and immigration issues.