Tuesday, January 5, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi Christians are again targeted, a British official tells the Iraq Inquiry they did everything but (under questioning) reveals they did damn little, KPFA runs off listeners, and more.
There's confusiong this week regarding Ba'athism as a result of one outlet publishing rabid ravings of a Chalabi. But there's also an easy walk through provided on this week's The Progressive Radio Show where Matthew Rothschild speaks with Sami Rasouli of Muslim Peacemakers Team in Iraq.
Sami Rasouli: And by the way, Ba'ath means the Arab renasance or a new born Arab and that political party as philosophy and set of values and objectives were founded --was founded by a Christian Syrian philospher scholar named Michel Aflaq in 1947. Main objective of the Ba'ath to unite all Arab countries. 22 countries become just like United States of America, United States of Arabia. That was a wonderful thing to think of of it. And the people were according to the Ba'ath philosophy, they live in a social system and free -- free from outsider's intervention
Matthew Rothschild: But that's not how the regime turned out though?
Sami Rasouli: Well the objectives yes. The objectives, I mean, the-the Ba'ath was -- attracted actually lots of young people. Started in Syria, moved to Iraq, then right now at the moment the Syrian government is run -- embracing that party, Baath political party and also there are Bathis in the parliaments of Lebanon, Jordan, Sudan and the Ba'ath Party is active in Mauritania and other Arab countries excpet in Iraq. In Iraq if you run for political office, public office like the next election in March, in Iraq, you have to submit an affidavit that prove that you are not Ba'ahti you did not work with the previous regime. So there is a harsh actually ban on exercising the Baath as a political party in Iraq today and that goes back when Paul Bremer, the second civil administrator -- American administrator, who run the country after Saddam Hussein fall, he set one of the 100 orders, besides disbanding the army, the order was the de-Ba'athifcation that slaughtered a lot of Iraqis.
Matthew Rothschild: Do you think it's a mistake to ban the Ba'ath Party?
Sami Rasouli: Oh, yeah, because many people embraced that political party willing and others, no, they were forced. But the big dilemma that the Iraqi people are suffering today, 1/5 of the population got displaced and mostly was the educated paople. Now this is just for education, Taliban means the educated people. So the educated people of Iraq -- 1/5 of the popultiaton, one million people were driven first they were kidnapped, imprionsed, killed with many, many, many, I mean 650 Iraqi scientists were assassinated by the Mossad these Israeli intelligence agency in the last six and a half years and this is available as information go Google the State Dept and the Pentagon They don't shy away about it because those scientiest they know about it and the so they are so dangerous and they were not recruitable so they got assassinated. Now many --
Matthew Rothschild: Well that's the first I've heard of that. You're sure about that?
Sami Rasouli: Right you can find that easily, hundreds of articles about this. The Oil experts that were part of those people, the Iraqi educated people, got displaced out of Iraq, in Jordan and Syria and beyond, they left the country the country now has a big vaccum and it became a dead end where the Iraqi oil became privatized.
Matthew Rothschild: Well, and, how is that, that has just begun and for a long time/ I mean, I had a bumper sticker on my car that said: "The Iraq War Is Terrorism For Oil" or something when the war started and now it looks like, low and behold the oil companies are getting in.
Sami Rasouli: On June 30th, the Iraqi government made a big noise sending 100s dancers and musicians on the street to celebrate what? The US forces left the cities and stayed on their bases, military based. and Malii told the Iraqis we just got -- we took the right step towrads our indepencncy our soverntiy so let's be happy and celeertate but he didn't tell the Iraqi pople the other thing that was happening on the very same day, June 30th giant oil company represenatives attended the celebration, another celebiration of submitting their bids to get their shares of the Iraqi treasures Iraqi government silently, secretly auctioned off the Iraqi wealth, the Iraqi oil. And now we know one of the three letters that Ray McGoven when he was asked about the Iraq War, He said it was about three letters O-I--L. O it's about Oil, I it's about Israel, L it's about location or logistics.
Sami Rasouli is with Muslim Peacemakers Team in Iraq and also a part of the Reconciliation Project. In terms of the 630 Iraqi scientists, Al Jazeera reported "Mossad murdered 530 Iraqi scientists. The Plight of Iraqi Acadmics" May 9, 2006. December 10, 2007, Press TV counted 530 in their "Mossad mission: Murder Iraqi scholars." James Petras' article noting the reports can be found at Al Jazeera and the Palestine Chronicles. And it made the Marxism mailing list. Philip Sherwell (Telegraph of London) reported that Mossad was targeting Iran's scientists (Feb. 16, 2009) and quoted an unnamed source saying it would be like what they did in Iraq. December 3, 2005, David Hoskins (Workers World) reported:
Osama Abed Al-Majeed, the president of the Department for Research and Development at the Iraqi Ministry for Higher Education, has accused the Israeli secret service, Mossad, of perpetuating the violence against Iraqi scientists. A June 2005 report by the Palestine Information Center claims that Mossad, in cooperation with U.S. military forces, was responsible for the assassination of 530 Iraqi scientists and professors in the seven months prior to the report's publication.
Mossad unquestionably has the motive and means to assassinate leading Iraqi intel lectuals. The Israeli intelligence agency contains a Special Operations Division called Metsada which is tasked with conducting assassinations, sabotage and paramilitary projects. Israel has a long history of interference in Iraq, going back to the 1981 bombing of a nuclear energy plant that stood 15 miles outside Baghdad that just before that attack had voluntarily undergone inspection by the Inter national Atomic Energy Agency.
Regardless of who is responsible for the killing of Iraqi scientists and academics, it is clear that the U.S. and Britain, as the leading occupying powers, have the responsibility for the precarious situation in which these intellectuals are forced to live.
In July 2006, Fakhri Al Qaisi ("assistant dean of the College of Dentistry") told Basil Adas (Gulf News) that, "The assassinations are linked to Israeli Mossad." Adas reported, "He claimed that the Iraqi National Congress Party began abducting physicians and university professors after the US occupation, a time when assassinations increased dramatically and that the party was backed by the Mossad."
Matthew Rothschild devotes The Progressive Review this week to the issue of Iraq. And it can be done. And it used to be done. Which brings us to KPFA's self-serving [PDF format warning] "KPFA State of the Station 2009." Pledge drives? It's never-ending begging at KPFA these days -- if you've missed it, you haven't been listening. Pledge drive over? Keep hitting up the listeners at the top of the hour. If you just listened, you'd get the impression that (a) KPFA needs money and (b) it wants to raise money. Reality: It needs money. If it wanted to improve the station's financial health the answer's in the paper. No, not in "This is how we get young males to listen to us!" In fact, that crap's so damn pathetic you begin to grasp why KPFA's listenership has CRATERED. Give them an audience and KPFA will run the audience off.
Travel with us through the report: "In 2004, KPFA's overall listenership reached a peak, paralleling the trend of public radio as a whole, in the wake of the US invasion of Iraq." Why would that be the peak? Because of the Iraq War, the report tells you. The report continues, "Times of reaction and war have traditionally increased listenership to Pacifica stations. The fact that we have not broken any lasting new ground in the past eight years is cause for real concern."
Indeed it damn well is. Equally true, PAY ATTENTION KPFA, the fall in listeners coincides with KPFA's drop in war coverage. The Iraq War has not ended. The Iraq War, when it was covered, brought KPFA record high listenership for the decade and what the hell did KPFA do with that?
Not a damn thing. KPFA's Flashpoints Radio, trivia note, began how? Covering the first Gulf War. In 2003 and 2004, while KPFA was pulling in a record number of listeners, what show did they create to cover the Iraq War? Not one damn show.
Not one damn show.
And when confronted, management would insist it could be covered by the various programs. As we all know, that was either optimistic thinking or a flat out lie. Here's what happened, the end of 2004 (which is when the ratings start to droop -- a factor that is left out of the 'official report'), KPFA drops Iraq to subordinate position. The Iraq War is no longer an issue itself, mind you, it is now a reason: A reason to vote for John Kerry. KPFA lost listeners doing that because it wasn't NPR. See, NPR covers the news. You may not like how they cover it, you may. But NPR isn't telling you who to vote for.
Having failed to use the Iraq War to elect John Kerry president of the United States, KPFA (and the rest of Pacifica) lost interest in Iraq. This is December 2004, January 2005, etc. It's not until Cindy Sheehan stages Camp Casey that Iraq becomes an 'issue' for KPFA. And, no surprise, KPFA's interest was just in time to push the 2006 mid-term elections.
Today the Iraq War doesn't exist on KPFA except for one program, we'll get to it in a minute. You can hear Kris Welch embarrass herself (how sad that this is how the broadcast career ends) doing her bulls**t broadcasts each Thursday and Friday which are nothing but grief therapy for Democrats which end with a group hug and a pledge to forever vote Democrat -- and that crap you can hear all over KPFA. You just can't hear a damn thing that matters.
KPFA walked away from its mission. It refused to provide information and instead worked on get out the vote. That is not Pacifica Radio's function. And that nonsense alienated people who weren't Democrats (Socialists, Greens, Communists, independents, disenchanted Republicans, swing voters, non-voters, etc.) and alienates even Democrats today as they hear Kris Welch and various other liars on the airwaves insisting that Bush did this and Bush did that even though Barack Obama is the President. They're such liars, no one takes them seriously. KPFA is supposed to lead. Not lead in minimizing or lowering expectations.
KPFA failed. The management failed. The first thing you do, if you're KPFA, when the US launches a war, is launch a program to cover it. Anytime Pacifica's done that, the ratings have been there. Anytime. And the funds have been there because it was an alternative to the rah-rah war of the MSM. But they failed. And they continue to fail because the Iraq War continues and the Afghanistan War continues. They could give you Mitch jerking off daily while moaning "Barack! Barack" and call it [Dear Penthouse Forum] Letters From Washington. They've failed to grasp why Pacifica ever mattered, they've confused electoral politics with Lew Hill's mission statement and, in doing so, they've driven off all the listeners they gained in 2004.
Open Letter to KPFA General Manager, Lemlem Rijio and the KPFA community
Dennis Bernstein replies to a letter sent by KPFA General Manager Lemlem Rijio to the staff list concerning the cuts to Flashpoints
Open Letter to KPFA General Manager, Lemlem Rijio and the KPFA community of Listeners
/And A Bold Proposal
By Dennis Bernstein, Executive Producer, Flashpoints
On December 30th
[Response to Rijio letter of 12/30, KPFA Staff: KPFA Open Letter on Budget Reductions, which is not copied here due to a confidentiality notice]
KPFA GM, Lemlem Rijio addressed the KPFA Pacifica community in an open letter . . about the current financial crunch at KPFA. While the crunch is real, I would of course disagree with several statements made in the letter by MS Rijio.
But let me just shed light on one point, in which she directly addresses Flashpoints, and then I'd like to offer a bold proposal to Management and workers at KPFA, to step up and stand strong for Free Speech Radio.
Ms Rijio states in her open letter: "At the current staffing level (after cuts to all programs), Flashpoints has more staffing per hour than all other public affairs programs at KPFA."
Really? Under current management, Flashpoints has lost fifty percent of its budget, leaving the show with 80 paid hours for staffing.
Currently KPFA news has well over 200 paid hours for staffing, five times the plant space as Flashpoints, and their own broadcast studio. They also have full access to Free speech Radio News which is a major contributor to the news cast. According to the official budget figures for fiscal 2005/2006, the news department budget went up over $50,000 dollars under current management, while the Flashpoints budget was cut. Administration went up over $30,000 dollars in the same period. The trend continued, as MS Rijio expressed her priorities clearly, by continuing to cut (and censor) Flashpoints, while increasing the budgets for the morning show and the news and administration.
Statement of Fact: The Flashpoints budget has been slashed in half under current management.
Question: Have the budgets for the morning show and the KPFA news gone up or down under the same management?
Question: Did current management bust the budget, and are they now using the bust as an excuse to get rid of, or at least marginalize a radical edgy show like Flashpoints?
MY Challenge: Ms Rijio writes in her open letter, "program teams, were given the opportunity to voluntarily spread the cuts among themselves, and some staff voluntarily reduced their hours to lessen the impact on their co-workers." Well here's my response to my boss: OK I will volunteer to go on an unpaid six months leave, and work for free, starting immediately if six of my brothers and sisters at the top of the KPFA pay scale will do the same. That would be say the two top managers, and 4 senior members of CWA (let's make room for the next generation).
One more thing, it is my understanding that several people were given major increases in their hours, even while others were being cut. Those hours should immediately be returned back to the hour pool and given back to the people who were just laid off.
If you agree to this action, in support of KPFA,the people's radio station, Ms Rijio, then I think that it will go a long way to getting us over the financial hump, without hobbling Flashpoints and Hard Knock Radio, which have been hit hardest by the crunch, and which are born under the banner of Pacifica founder, Lew Hill. In closing, Ms Rijio, I do admire your decision to bring this conversation out into the light of day, with your open letter to the KPFA community. I look forward to this frank open dialogue on how to keep KPFA Free Speech, non-corporate radio strong and viable into the 21st Century.
In Struggle, Dennis Bernstein Executive Producer, Flashpoints, CWA/KPFA member,
dbernstein [at] igc.org
Today Flashpoints Radio is the only KPFA program aware that the Iraq War did not end in January 2008 when Barack Obama was sworn in as the new president of the United States so we'll note Dennis' letter in full. KPFA has failed. The management needs to turn in their resignations. They've destroyed the station and they refused to deliver a program on Iraq all these years even though the Iraq War was the only thing, THE ONLY THING, that increased their ratings in the entire decade. (And we can go into pledges and what brought in the dollars -- not noted in the 'report' released but noted in a lengthier report.) KPFA and Pacifica need to get it together real damn quick. For Pacifica coverage from last night, see Marcia's "Hey KPFA, where are the women?," Ann's "The Morning Show's sexism is showing," Ruth's "A sexist broadcast from Women's Media Center," Kat's "Comic, Flashpoints, year end" and Elaine's "The Infantile Norman Solomon."
In London, the Iraq Inquiry has resumed public hearings today and the witnesses were Gen Nichols Houghton, Simon McDonald, William Patey and Vice Adm Charles Style (link goes to transcript and video options of today's testimony). John Chilcot is the chair of the Inquiry and he noted before Patey offered testimony that the focus would be on examining "developments in Iraq from summer 2005 to summer 2006" and Patey explained, "I was the British Ambassador to Iraq from June 2005 to July 2006." The Press Association reports he told the Inquiry today "that for the first time in his career he had received orders directly from the prime minister." Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) adds, "Tony Blair personally briefed Britain's ambassador in Baghdad, with Downing Street calling almost every day as tension grew between political demands at home and reality on the ground in Iraq, the Chilcot inquiry was told today." After offering testimony on that early on, it was a subject Committee Members repeatedly asked about.
Committee Member Martin Gilbert: I would like to ask you about your contact with London. You mentioned your frequent telephone calls direct with Number 10. The instructions you got across the board, were they instructions that you felt were attainable?
William Patey: In the end, we did. I mean, my instructions were: get a constitution, get it agreed, have an election, get a government formed and get some troops out. So I suppose they were, because that's -- by July, when I left, we had done all of those. Handover in Muthanna was just about to happen. Obviously, we would have liked to have got more troops out quicker, but it was always a conditions based approach, and when the conditions were right. We weren't just going to pull troops out for the sake of it. So they were reasonable requests as long as you realised that they weren't in my gift or soley in the gift of the British Government. We were actors in a complex situation where there were other actors and the key for us was to work with the Americans, with the Iraqis, mainly, to try and see a path through. I was always struck by how open Iraqis were to discussions about how democracy worked, and what struck me about it was how little experience they had of it. All politicians had been in exile a while, it was just your own normal experience. I don't regard myself as a constitutional expert, but my everyday understanding of how government works was useful in talkign to Iraqi politicians who were genuinely interested. So there was a process of constant dialogue with individuals, which I think had an impact.
[. . .]
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: I just wonder if I could follow up a bit on the London end. You have talked about getting almost daily phone calls from Number 10. Where were your instructions coming from? Did it seem to you at all odd that you were being managed from 10 Downing Street rather than another department? Did you sense that there was a joined-up policy in Whitehall?
William Patey: No, I didn't find it strange, give the sort of level of interest in the subject, the level of commitment, personal comitment, by the Prime Minister. I didn't get -- I had lots of visitors. Jack Straw was out three or four, maybe five times in the time I was there. The Prime Minister was out two or three times. The Defence Secretary was out, you know, at least as often as that. So I had a lot of direct contact with the Ministers. In a sense, we weren't getting daily instructions. You know, we had -- I had my marching orders, if you like, and a lot of it was left to us. It was one of those -- what they were interested in was updates: what's happening? What's happening on the constitution? Where are we? Where are we on the electroral processes? Where are we on the formation of the government? So a lot of it was an insatiable appetite for information on what was happening, and that was -- in a sense that was the essence of really the Sheinwald call at nine o'clock in the morning. It was a kind of, "I'm going in to see the Prime Minister this morning. He is going to ask about Iraq. What's happening?"
Committee member Usha Prashar raised the issue of the prisoners ("detainees") and William Patey felt the biggest problem wasn't the US (he omitted the British from his response) but was the Ministry Of Interior "detention centers, and some of the horrific things we found there when coalition forces did go into something called the Jadriya bunker, and we also discovered detention centres on the seventh floor of the Ministry of Interiror which led to a whole process of dialogue with the Iraqi Government and agreement on investigation commission and also coalition willingness to inspect -- basically raid detention centres that they were aware of. So there was a determined effort to try and get to the bottom of what the Sunnis called the MOI death squads and politically motivated groups detaining people."
Committee Member Prashar attempted to pursue the issue but Patey repeatedly gave conflicting answers. He insisted he "gave quite a high priority to it" at one point, that he "didn't need London to raise it [the issue] with us" but pressed for what he actually did by Prashar, Patey responded that it was the "Americans [who addressed it[ because they had the forces in Baghdad." But, Patey declared, he did tell the Minister of the Interrior that the MOI death squad "was bad news for the country."
David Brown (Times of London) reports of Simon McDonald's testimony, "British companies have benefited from the award of oil contracts in Iraq because of the decision to help to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Gordon Brown's chief foreign policy adviser told the Chilcot inquiry yesterday." Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger adds these details of McDonald's testimony:
How, purred Sir Roderic, did McDonald think our involvement in Iraq had affected our standing in the Middle East? And with the European Union? And for that matter -- he'd started so he'd finish -- The World? Had it improved or worsened the fight against terrorism? Where exactly had it left our dealings with Iran?
The witness looked, quite frankly, a little astounded; the game had abruptly changed from Simon Says to Roderic Rails. His reply gambit to one question -- a refusal to speculate -- was, frankly, supremely ill-advised.
I'm not asking you to speculate, hissed his inquisitor; I'm asking for your assessment as one of the most senior foreign policy officials in the United Kingdom government. *Ouch*
Between those two testimonies, Vice Adm Charles Style and Gen Nicholas Houghton offered joint-testimony. Here's the key passage:
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: But you said earlier we had got to a situation where we couldn't do much about it. You said that a couple of times.
Vice Adm Charles Style: Absolutely, and not only that but I very much had the view by the first quarter of 2007 that we were starting to become part of the focus -- the target, the cause of much of the violence that was going on in the city.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: So we then withdraw to Basra Airport and we hang around there for a couple of more years unable to do very much, but not able either decently to hand over in conditions that we regarded as acceptable.
At which point Gen Houghton jumped in to rescue the Vice Adm. The Inquiry continues tomorrow. Ryan Crocker was the US Ambassador to Iraq until April. (Chris Hill is now in that position.) Jefferson Robbins (Wenatchee World) interviews Crocker on Iraq and other issues.
Turning to Iraq where Iraqi Christians are again being targeted. AINA reports a Bartilla car bombing outside St. George Church in which twelve people were wounded and property damaged (link has a photo essay). Ethan Cole (Christian Post) provides this background, "The blast occured near St. George Church, which is the same town as the church that was attacked on Christmas morning by a minority ethnic group called Shabak."
Meanwhile Alan McMenemy remains unaccounted for. Five British citizens were kidnapped May 29, 2007 in Iraq and, Wednesday, one was released: Peter Moore. Moore, Alec Maclachlan, Jason Crewswell, Alan McMenemy and Jason Swindelhurst were kidnapped by the League of Righteous from the Ministry of Finance and, following the US military releasing League of Righteous members from their prisons in Iraq in June, the bodies of Crewswell, Swindelhurts and Maclachlan were slowly turned over to British authorities. The British government announced in July that they believed Alan McMenemy was dead but his family has continued to hold out hope.
From the June 9th snapshot:
This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."
Yesterday Alice Fordham (Times of London) explained, "The release of Mr McMenemy, or his remains, is being linked to the impending freeing of a Shia cleric and leader of Asaib al-Haq (AAH), League of the Righteous, the group that held the five Britons. Qais al-Khazali, the AAH leader, was transferred from US to Iraqi custody shortly before the release of Mr Moore on December 30." Today Waleed Ibrahim, Suadad al-Salhy, Muhanad Mohammed, Jim Loney, Missy Ryan and Jon Hemming (Reuters) report Iraqi officials are stating Qais al-Khazali has been released; however, "several sources familiar with Khazali's Shi'ite militant group denied he had been released and British officials believe the last remaining hostage, Alan McMenemy, is now dead." Yesterday's snapshot included this:
ITN reports that the family of Jason Swindlehurst have stated that Jason is dead because the US refused to act quickly and quote father Russel Swindlehurst stating, "We're very, very glad that Peter's back home safe and sound. But if the only reason he was released was because the Americans have released whover it is [al-Khazal], why couldn't they have done it two years ago so we might have had all five lads coming home instead of just one." As the father, it's a perfectly reasonable question. Stepping back a distance, the US never, NEVER, should have released the ringleaders responsible for the deaths of 5 Americans. And if Barack's administration had thought in the least (their thinking was addressed in Thursday's snapshot), they would have realized that the release would lead to questions such as Swindlehurst. From his point of view, it's a valid question. From the point of view that an American president is supposed to represent and protect American citizens -- Barack was not elected President of the World -- Barack's actions are appalling.
Barack's actions remain appaling but Russell Swindlehurst's actions described above are perfectly normal and would bef ro any parent. However, Rob Quinn (Newser) reports today that Russell Swindlehurst's feelings were more complicated than described above. He did ask why the Americans didn't release the prisoners sooner but only after he stated, "I believe that you should not negotiate with terrorists, even though it's cost my son his life." And, correction, it's "Russell" not "Russel" as spelled yesterday.
Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse's "The Year of the Assassin" (Asia Times):
Obama swept into office, in part, on a pledge to end the US war in Iraq. Almost a year after he entered the White House, more than 100,000 US troops are still deployed in that country (about the same number as in February 2004). Still, plans developed at the end of the Bush presidency, and later confirmed by Obama, have set the US on an apparent path of withdrawal. On this the president has been unambiguous.
"Let me say this as plainly as I can," he told a military audience in February 2009. "By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end ... I intend to remove all US troops from Iraq by the end of 2011."
However, Robert Gates, his secretary of defense, has not been so unequivocal. While recently visiting Iraq, he disclosed that the US Air Force would likely continue to operate in that country well into the future. He also said: "I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see agreements between ourselves and the Iraqis that continues a train, equip and advise role beyond the end of 2011."
For 2010, expect platitudes about withdrawal from the president and other administration spokespeople, while Defense Department officials and military commanders offer more "pragmatic" (and realistic) assessments. Keep an eye out for signs this year of a coming non-withdrawal withdrawal in 2011.