Sunday, November 29, 2009

And the war drags on . . .

In a think piece of the Week In Review section of today's New York Times, Steven Lee Myers becomes the first reporter to point out that the benchmarks were never achieved. If you dispute that and e-mail, I'm just going to laugh at you. For over a year now we've stressed the benchmark issue here, the failure of it. And various e-mails from government officials and reporters and activists have come in claiming otherwise. The perception was that the benchmarks 'worked.' That was in part due to a lot of crap from a lot of asses including some on the tax payer payroll. The benchmarks were never achieved. Never. The only person other than Steven Lee Myers that can take any recent credit is US House Rep Lloyd Doggett. Dropping back to the September 16, 2008 snapshot:

Lloyd Doggett: I think there are probably a lot of Americans who are paying for this so-called reconstruction in Iraq that would be mighty glad if they could get $1.18 gasoline. Did you play a role in the analysis of the benchmarks that the Government Accountability Office provided last year?

Joseph Christoff: Yes, sir.

Lloyd Doggett: What was that role?

Joseph Christoff: I was the director in charge of that report.

Lloyd Doggett: And have you also played the same role in responding to questions about the benchmarks from [House Armed Services Committee] Chairman [Ike] Skelton this year with the report that you just did in the last few weeks?

Joseph Christoff: Yes, I was the director on the progress report as well.

Lloyd Dogget: All of us remember, except maybe President Bush, that in January of 2007, he selected the benchmarks, the guidelines by which to measure success, by which to measure victory in Iraq and when we sought an analysis so we would have an objective information instead of just the propaganda from the administration about whether those benchmarks had been met the Congress turned to the Government Accountability Office. And my recollection is that when you came out with your report on August the 30th of last year that you determined that . . . 11 of the 18 benchmarks that President Bush had set were not met. Is that correct?

Joseph Christoff: Based on that prior report correct.

Lloyd Doggett: Yes, sir. And you found that of the 18 benchmarks the president set himself to measure success in Iraq that only three had been met as of August 30, 2007. Now this year, a year later, you did some evaluation again. You did not evaluate every single benchmark but you really found that there had been very little progress in the year. We know that fortunately fewer Americans are being killed there. But in terms of the objective of the Bush policy in Iraq, you had a grand amount of success in that they met one more benchmark than they had the year before, isn't that correct?

Joseph Christoff: Well we didn't go through a benchmark by benchmark analysis but we did provide a report that talked about progess on the security front, the legislative front and the economic front in our June report.

Lloyd Doggett: Right and I believe you found one more benchmark met than the year before.

Joseph Christoff: Again we didn't do a benchmark by benchmark analysis, sir.

Lloyd Doggett: Well if you look at the -- it may not have been called a benchmark analysis -- but you looked at some of the same factors you had the year before. Just to begin to go through them, on the Constitutional Review Committee, you found that they'd formed the committee but the committee hadn't done anything. Right?

Joseph Christoff: And that's still true.

Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met that. On enacting and implementing legislation on de-Baathification you found that they had enacted the legislation but they hadn't implemented and of it, right?

Joseph Christoff: That's correct.

Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met the second benchmark. On the question of enacting the hydrocarbon or oil legislation, you concluded that they had not met that again this year, did you not?

Joseph Christoff: Correct, and no progess this year either.

Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions -- that was the fourth benchmark President Bush had -- you found that that was only partially met. Again they passed a law to allow the provinces to act but it hadn't been implemented.

Joseph Christoff: Well on that one it will be implemented when provinces come together to form regions so that's an open --

Lloyd Doggett: Right, but we're not there yet.

Joseph Christoff: Well no provinces have voted to form regions other than the KRG originally.

Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation for an Independent High Electoral Commission you found only partially meeting it. Again, they passed a law but hadn't implemented it.

Joseph Christoff: The commission was established. The provincial election law -- the date was established for October 1 but the implementing laws have not been enacted.

Lloyd Doggett: Right. And they won't have the elections they've been promising us they'd have for a year in October.

Joseph Christoff: October 1, they will not meet that date.

Lloyd Doggett: On the enacting and implementing legislation for a strong militia disarmament program --

Joseph Christoff: That's not met.

Lloyd Doggett: That's not met. And I see my time's up but, Mr. Chairman, we can keep going down the objectives that President Bush set himself for success, for victory in Iraq, and you'll find that it continues to fail. That this policy has been a failure, American tax payers are having to fund the failure while the Iraqis pay a fraction of the price we pay for a gallon of gasoline. Thank you.

That was from the September 16, 2008 House Committee on the Budget hearing on Iraq's Budget Surplus and Christoff is with the Government Accountability Office. Doggett was exactly correct and there was Christoff trying to spin. Doggett didn't let him spin it. The benchmarks were a total failure. That was obvious in 2008 and it's only more obvious today. And you better grasp that if you're one of the self-deceivers who still don't. We stressed it here over and over not to score points in public opinion on the illegal war. (I don't think that's even possible at this point.) We stressed it here over and over because it matters and because it was a failure and because, pay attention, it is always going to be a military failure. The military is not equipped, is not trained to do these functions and should not be tasked with them. Is anyone able to? Myers seems to think so in his piece. I disgaree. You can't make democracy for another country. The people of that country can if that's the system they want. But the Iraqi people have not been in charge of their own country. Instead the US government installed exiles as 'leaders' and used the US military to prop these puppets up.

Why does it matter? It matters for many reasons that have to do with the continued war in Iraq; however, it also matters with Afghanistan. You're going to see a song and dance from Congress after Barack's announcement. It's going to go like this: Well, we're opposed, but we'll go along, if you include benchmarks.

Don't buy that s**t when they try to sell it. Congress did not pull the plug on the Iraq War despite the fact that the benchmarks were not met -- were NOT met. The Iraq War didn't just continue, it still continues. The benchmarks were meaningless and they will be meaningless for the Afghanistan War. A vote to continue the Afghanistan War -- despite any qualifiers -- is still a vote to continue the eight-year and counting war. And grasp that only one member of Congress was outraged by the benchmark failure enough to press on it in a committee hearing. Only one.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4365. Tonight? 4367. The count includes today's announcement: "BASRA -- A Multi-National Division -- South Soldier died Nov. 29 of non-combat related injuries. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense.
The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin.
The incident is under investigation." Turning to some other reported violence . . .


Today Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Saturday Baghdad bombing which left two people injured. Fang Yang (Xinhua) reports an al-Ghalbiyah roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Sahwa member and left two more injured last night and a Saif Sa'ad roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 person and injured another.


Today Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Wadhah Al Obeidi (local politician) was shot dead in Baghdad yesterday.

We're going to move the focus to England but first, new content at Third:

Truest statement of the week
Truest statement of the week II
A note to our readers
Editorial: Barack The Never Ending Liar
TV: What's the return policy?
TV: Good As He's Been To You
The Iraq War's British roots
The numbers and the outrage
Don't Steal This Look!
When Bully Met Poodle

Tonight Andrew Grice (Independent of London -- and it's this morning in England now) reports:

Ministers fear the inquiry into the Iraq war will create a new public backlash that will harm the Labour Party's prospects at the general election.
Although Sir John Chilcot's investigation will not report until after the election, alarm bells are ringing in the Government that the evidence sessions, which began last week, will remind voters about the war and further undermine public trust in Labour.

Why did we wait on that? Because in Third's "Roundtable," Rebecca's telling you the same thing but she told it late Saturday night. I don't think Rebecca ever got the credit for reporting on Labour leadership's concern over Gordon Brow's low polling last spring, on their asking him to step down, on his refusal to do so, on his claim that he would bounce back in the polling, etc. She reported all of that before Brown went on his August holiday. She reported it when the British press wasn't even aware of it. She's known about the concern Grice is reporting on for two or three weeks now because her friend doing polling asked for her input on how to word the questions they'd poll with once the inquiry started public hearings (which began last Tuesday). On British Labour politics, before you read it in any papers, you usually hear about it from Rebecca. Except for two reporters in the US, I don't think Rebecca's ever gotten the credit she deserves and I want to note her work here tonight. (And, yes, Rebecca's one of my oldest friends. That's not why I'm noting it. I'm noting it because she's earned praise.)

Why is Labour having problems? In part because then-prime minister Tony Blair was told a war with Iraq would be illegal. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) explains, "nvasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein would be a serious breach of international law and the UN charter.
Lord Goldsmith, then attorney general, issued the warning in an uncompromising letter in July 2002, eight months before the invasion. It was becoming clear in government circles that Blair had had secret meetings with George Bush at which the US president was pressing Britain hard to join him in a war to change the regime in Baghdad." John Bingham and Jon Swaine (Telegraph of London) add, "The existence of the letter, disclosed in a Sunday newspaper, emerged after a week in which the inquiry heard that Tony Blair and George Bush, the former US President, 'signed in blood' a deal to invade Iraq as early as April 2002. [. . .] Tony Blair is due to appear before the inquiry next year when the Goldsmith letter is expected to form a centrepiece of the questioning." Blair's policies were continued by the increasingly unpopular Gordon Brown. From Toby Helm and Rajeev Syal's "Gordon Brown urged to lift Iraq inquiry secrecy" (Guardian):

Gordon Brown is facing demands to change the rules of the Iraq inquiry this weekend amid fears that the most explosive documents explaining why Britain went to war will not be made public.
As the inquiry enters its second week, the prime minister is under pressure to make key evidence relating to secret government discussions public, including minutes showing how the then attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, changed his mind about the legality of the war.
The demands are made in a letter to Brown from the Liberal Democrat leader,
Nick Clegg, who insists that unless the lid is lifted on secrecy, the Chilcot inquiry will fail to satisfy the public's demands for honesty.
Last night the Mail on Sunday claimed Goldsmith wrote to Blair in July 2002, eight months before the war, telling him that deposing Saddam Hussein was a blatant breach of international law. The intention was to make Blair call off the invasion but he ignored the advice, the newspaper says, and banned Goldsmith from attending cabinet meetings. The letter has been handed to the inquiry and both men are expected to be questioned about it in the new year.

James Denselow (Guardian) puts the whole wars of this decade into perspective, "Both the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts highlighted how our foreign policy is driven by decision makers who hide their real intentions behind a bulletproof cloak of ethics and values. The reality was that both wars were interest-driven and largely about maintaining relations with the Americans in a post-9/11 world. The chimera of weapons of mass destruction was designed to 'play the UN system' to secure legitimacy. When this failed, the back-up plan was always the 'Saddam is evil' argument that justified our presence as designed to help the Iraqi people."

Myers article, noted at the top of the entry, also goes over the current situation re: Iraqi elections. Also on that topic, the Lousville Courie-Journal has an article worth reading.
Kat's "Kat's Korner: Joni Mitchell's unearthed treasure" went up this morning, Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes Sian Ruddick's "New revelations as Iraq war inquiry opens" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

The official inquiry into the 2003 Iraq war began its public hearings on Tuesday of this week amid a storm over leaked documents that show the backroom deals George Bush and Tony Blair made in the run-up to the slaughter.
Many hoped that the inquiry would condemn Blair’s actions and declare the war illegal.
But its chairman, Sir John Chilcot, said the conclusions of the inquiry would be “definitive in one sense, yes, but not definitive in the sense of a court verdict of legal or illegal.
“It is much closer to high policy decisions: was this a wise decision, was it well-taken, was it founded on good advice and good information and analysis?”
The Sunday Telegraph newspaper published leaked documents this week that show that Blair tried to hide his true intentions over Iraq by informing only “very small numbers” of officials.
He tried to claim the goal was “disarmament, not regime change”.
But the documents reveal that “from March 2002 or May at the latest there was a significant possibility of a large-scale British operation”.
This limited inquiry will not stop future wars from happening or call leaders to account.
The inquiry must look at the deals made with the US in the months before the war.
It must expose the fabricated “intelligence”, including the 45-minute threat.
Only by declaring Tony Blair guilty of war crimes will it help to bring justice for those millions of Iraqis who have paid with their lives for a bloody, pointless war.
The following should be read alongside this article: »
Did British soldiers kill Iraqi civilians?
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