Wednesday, December 16, 2009

That deal the US made with the Kurds

Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to President Massoud Barzani of Iraq's Kurdistan region, told editors and reporters of The Washington Times on Tuesday that the White House commitment last week was historic.
It is new, yes, Mr. Hussein said. In our political history and in our relationship with the United States government, it is the first time we have had such a statement. There was always a discussion of these matters, but this is the first time in our political history that the White House gave such a statement.
The statement singled out the Kurds while congratulating Iraqis for finally passing a law allowing parliamentary elections to go forward in March.

The above is from Eli Lake's "U.S. makes political pledge to Kurds in Iraq" (Washington Times) -- apparently the only journalist in the United States who grasps that when the US government makes deals, it's news and that the US government serves the American people who have a right to know what deals are being made on their behalf. Mike noted the article last night and observed it wouldn't thrill Nouri al-Maliki to read Lake's article. Fuad Hussein is the Chief of Staff for the KRG President Masoud Barzani and Falah Mustafa Bakir heads the KRG's Dept of Foreign Relations and they are in DC for the week with plans to also visit Detroit and the Iraqi community there. If you don't get that Lake's article is news . . . Well I could give you a list of a number of news outlets where you could apply for work and fit right in with the blind sheep making up so much of today's press corps. But you can also refer to Zvi Bar'el's "If it's good for the Kurds . . ." (Haaretz):

But beyond a display of personal friendship, Barzani says he heard an unparalleled political statement by Obama. "Obama referred to the rights of the Kurdish people and promised to support their implementation," he declared after the telephone conversation. Barzani did not give details, and no one is talking about setting up an independent Kurdish state.
Barzani, meanwhile, is making do with an American commitment to preserve the region's autonomy as part of a federal Iraq, but his remarks have caused a shudder in both Iraq and Turkey because an American commitment implies support for Kurdish demands that the Iraqi government opposes.
The Kurds want funding for the Kurdish militias, the Peshmerga, from the Iraqi defense budget, they want to set up two additional Kurdish divisions, and to apply paragraph 140 of the Iraqi constitution regarding the future of the contested city of Kirkuk. Especially, they seek backing for the agreements the Kurdish region has signed with foreign oil companies.
Obama's intervention in solving Iraq's political crisis is another indication that when U.S. interests are at stake, Washington is prepared to bypass a number of principles and talk with political rivals of another country's government. That's what it does in Afghanistan when the elected government is not able to carry out its tasks; Washington is willing to forge agreements with local tribal leaders there. The same is true of Iraq because of the Kurds' political clout.

The sound you now hear is many, many editors and producers asking, "How did we miss the story?" Indeed.

Many are missing another story. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports on the visit to Camp Ashraf yesterday:

With loudspeakers mounted on pickup trucks and riot police offering backup, Iraqi troops on Tuesday ordered a group of Iranian dissidents here to vacate their sanctuary, which has become an irritant in Iraq's relationship with Iran.
"Today is the day we start moving things out," Brig. Gen. Basel Hamad told reporters during a rare trip to the camp, 40 miles north of Baghdad. "We will not allow any foreigners to establish their own laws on Iraqi soil."

That last statement is among the not-so-veiled threats being made currently. They say they won't use violence on the one hand and then (read Lonodo's article) they say, if residents of Camp Ashraf don't leave . . . The residents are Iranian dissidents who have lived in Iraq for decades now. Following the US invasion, the US made them surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28th the world saw what Nouri's 'promises' were actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. Last week, his plans to 'relocate' them was announced. From Laith Hammoudi's "Iranian dissident group defies order to leave Iraq" (McClatchy Newspapers):

Rolling through Camp Ashraf in pickup trucks, Iraqi security forces tossed pamphlets outlining the government's position, and one officer used a microphone to read out the points in broken Farsi. Reporters were watched at all times and allowed only briefly to interview MEK members.
Iraqi Army Brig. Gen. Basil Hamad, the Iraqi government's spokesman on the media tour, said the government had warned the MEK that they were to begin emptying the camp Dec. 15. However, no one was removed from the premises Tuesday and Hamad didn't say how long the group had to evacuate.
"I already told the residents of Ashraf camp that the Iraqi government is responsible for providing security for the places we want to move residents, in addition to providing for all the administrative needs under the supervision of international organizations," Hamad told reporters.

Yesterday Iran's Press TV reported that the residents "defied the Iraqi government's orders to leave" and that, "According to a plan ordered by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki the group should first be moved to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and later to a 1950s detention camp in southern Iraq." Today Press TV reports , "A resolution presented by Democratic lawmakers has called on President Barack Obama to stop the relocation". AFP reports that US House Rep Bob Filner is leading the effort and held a press conference yesterday where he declared, "We are here to call on whoever will listen, the Iraqi government, the US government, to halt the forcible relocation of the residents of Camp Ashraf." Before Barack Obama was sworn in, his advisors had already noted Camp Ashraf had all the makings of an international incident should a slaughter take place. He tasked two people to deal with it. They did a lousy job, no surprise. That's why the current administration stumbled before Barack was even sworn in. What's the press' excuse? If Nouri's goons use violence, as they did in July, it's going to stir up a number of issues and a number of communities -- as forcible relocation generally does. If the international incident takes place, it'll be interesting to watch some outlets rush to play catch up and inform their audiences of a crisis that they 'forgot' while it was in the making. (CBS Evening News, Free Speech Radio News are two other domestic outlets who have reported on Camp Ashraf in the second half of the year. The Christian Science Monitor elected to mock the residents -- while 11 of them were being killed. Really don't think that's why the Christian Science Monitor was started.)

Turning to peace issues, Marci notes this from a letter to the editors of the Chicago Tribune by Reverend Martin Deppe:

We pray for our soldiers who die in Iraq and Afghanistan, with more progressive congregations, temples and mosques praying for all who die in these wars.
But there is virtually no religious presence in public debates or proclamations or in peace demonstrations, either locally or in Washington. The religious community seems to have given a blank check to the U.S. government to conduct any war anywhere that the establishment tells us will keep Americans safe. And right now that includes a six-year war in Iraq, an eight-year war in Afghanistan and a hidden war at least three years old and growing in Pakistan.
When will the religious community wake up to its peace-making role?
When will the churches in Chicago and elsewhere return to the message proclaimed so long ago from the heavenly chorus, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on Earth peace"?

March Forward! is a new group, one that's "an affiliate of the ANSWER Coalition," composed of veterans and active-duty service members including James Circello and Michael Prysner whom we've noted here before. The group has a "10 Point Program for Struggle:"

1) We demand the right to refuse illegal and immoral orders.
Service members should no longer be bound to carry out the plans of the Pentagon and Wall Street in violation of U.S. law, international law and people’s right to self-determination. Service members deserve the right to resist, without persecution, orders that conflict with internationally recognized laws or that conflict with their own conscience.

2) We demand an immediate end to the criminal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Service members should no longer be sent to fight, kill, die, be seriously wounded and/or psychologically scarred furthering the domination of U.S. corporations over other nations. We have nothing to gain from these wars. The occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan serve only the interests of the rich, not the service personnel who are sent over and over to repress people who have the right to determine their own destiny. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan are not our enemies. The more than 800 U.S. bases in 130 countries around the world should be shut down and the troops, fleets and air power brought home.

3) We demand an end to the existing officer corps.
The existing class stratification in the military must end. Officers -- who are overwhelmingly from more privileged sectors of society -- enjoy a much higher standard of living. They are paid significantly more, are provided much higher quality housing, and have access to services not available to enlisted personnel. Officers advance their careers on the backs of enlisted personnel, going so far as to send their troops into harm’s way for the good of their resumes. The existing officer corps should be dismantled and replaced by enlisted service members who are democratically elected by their units and who are subject to recall at anytime. Officers should no longer enjoy special privileges, including hand salutes. We also demand the right for lower enlisted ranks to unionize and form committees to address grievances with the chain of command, the unit and the military.

4) We demand an end to racism, sexism and homophobia prevalent in the military.
These are intentional barriers to rank-and-file unity against the will of the Pentagon, and must be eliminated through comprehensive education and strict disciplinary action. We demand an end to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and all other discriminatory measures against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender individuals.

5) We demand adequate funding for The Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans should have full access to quality health care. Services should be drastically expanded to meet the real physical and mental health needs of veterans and their families. Independent medical investigations should be initiated to research the effects of potentially harmful experimental drugs and chemical, biological and nuclear agents to which service members have been exposed. Any service member who has served in a combat theater should automatically receive lifetime compensation from the VA for being forced to suffer or inflict physical and/or psychological harm in advancing the interests of U.S. corporations.

6) We demand the right to a job, housing, health care and education for all.
Service members are lured into the military with the hopes of escaping economic hardship as a civilian, and to obtain education benefits and job training. Yet thousands of service members must remain in the military, literally trapped due to the lack of opportunities in the civilian world. No service member should have to choose between military service and poverty. Housing, a job, and access to free quality education and job training should be a right for everyone.

7) We demand the immediate end to all military aid to governments in service of US imperialism.
U.S. domination is not only exercised through direct military involvement, but also through a myriad of brutal client regimes and comprador governments that are funded, supported and directed by the U.S. government. Service members should not have to serve a military that uses billions of dollars in funds and weapons to prop up governments that are guilty of committing war crimes or repressing their citizens for the interests of the Pentagon and Wall Street. Aid to such countries as Israel, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, South Korea, Uganda and Egypt should be immediately cut off. All remaining funds, military equipment and weapons should be repossessed. Reparations should be paid to the populations that the military aid was used to repress.

8) We demand the immediate dismantling of the permanent military-industrial complex.
As long as there is a system in place that allows U.S. corporations to reap massive profits from going to war, there will be war for profit. The domination of the military-industrial complex has caused the death of tens of thousands of service personnel, and millions of innocent people—all in the name of profit. All private military corporations should be shut down or nationalized. The more than 1 trillion dollars a year that feeds the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex should be used to meet people’s needs.

9) We demand that all those involved in pursuing war for profit be indicted.
To ensure that service personnel no longer have to fight for the interests of the rich, all those responsible must be held accountable. Politicians, policy makers, lobbyists, CEOs and others involved in pursuing warfare -- both military and economic -- as a means to reap profit should be indicted for war crimes. Media outlets involved in disseminating false information in support of these plans should also be held accountable.

10) We demand full reparations paid, with interest, to all victims of the U.S. military. As service members in the U.S. military, we have been told that our enemy is the poor and oppressed abroad. But they are not our enemies. To begin to undo the injustices in which we have been forced to take part, the U.S. government should pay for the rebuilding of every structure bombed, compensating families for every person killed and providing a lifetime of health care and disability benefits for every individual wounded, including resistance fighters who took up arms against the U.S. military.

We'll note this from World Can't Wait's "Support this Resistance Movement:"

The need to continue to support this resistance movement is urgent and great.
With the help of many participants and donors, World Can't Wait has carried out protests across the country against what is presented as the "good war" in Afghanistan.
We do all this with your financial contributions, and I thank you for all that you've given. As the end of the year approaches, I'm asking you to remember this movement with a contribution (you can now use your credit card to make a tax-deductible donation).
Giving to this movement is one of the important political acts you can make right now. This is the time for moral clarity and resistance. The World Can't Wait!

I believe that's by Debra Sweet (written by). If you are giving this time of year, consider World Can't Wait which -- unlike other 'peace' groups -- did not suddenly awake this month. Or spend weeks insisting US troops needed to remain in Afghanistan. They didn't pack their bags after the November 2008 election. They didn't mistake a US president for a victim or run around insisting that it wasn't 'fair' to demand that the president of the United States end illegal wars. Nor did they have high bar for Republicans to meet and no bar for Democrats to meet. They are truly non-partisan. Their membership is Democrats, Greens, Republicans, Libertarians, Communists, Socialists, anarchists, anyone wanting to end the wars and willing to work on that. World Can't Wait didn't make excuses in 2009. They worked every damn day. I can't think of another group that allows anyone to join which worked harder. If you're giving this time of year, consider them. If you're not giving, it's not because you're 'stingy' or 'greedy'. The economy's still awful and there is no pressure on anyone struggling to try to cough up additional money for World Can't Wait or any other organization or charity accepting donations.

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oh boy it never ends