Friday, February 19, 2010

Gordon Brown tests the waters . . . and sinks

Gordon Brown is the current Prime Minister of England. He will appear before the Iraq Inquiry shortly (the date has not been publicly released yet). Eddie Barners (The Scotsman) reports:

Speaking to Tribune magazine, the Prime Minister declared that the real issue had not been the danger of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, but the dictator's failure to comply with UN resolutions that demanded he provide full disclosure to weapons inspectors.
This, said Brown, was the reason Britain and America were right to send in the troops.
Mr Brown's words represent a marked change from the government's main rationale for military action in 2003, when it asked MPs to support invasion. The motion, voted on by MPs, declared first and foremost that the UK should send in troops "to ensure the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction".

The comments ring more than a little hollow since Tony Blair sold the illegal war to England with the claims of WMD (specifically, that Iraq could strike the UK with WMD within 45 minutes). Brown may realize how hollow it sounds and may be attempting to publicly craft his testimony -- to test it out before appearing. He's enough trouble in terms of holding onto power and he really can't afford public ridicule but that's all his current idiotic statements invite. It may not be too late for him to save Labour's election chances by announcing his resignation as Prime Minister.

Staying with England, Danny Fitzimons is an Iraq War veteran and suffers from PTSD. In August 2009, he went back to Iraq as an employee of AmrourGroup Inc and is charged in the August 9th shooting deaths of Darren Hoare (Australian contractor), and Paul McGuigan (British contractor) and in the wounding of Iraqi Arkhan Madhi. BBC News reports that his father and step-mother continue to work on getting Danny's trial move to the United Kingdom and quotes Liz Fitsimons stating, "Imagine if it was your son or brother who was facing a death penalty. We are setting our hopes on Danny getting a fair trial, a sentence and he is brought back here." AP reports he was in an Iraqi court yesterday and informed that he needed to appear again April 7th. (To be clear, Danny is being held in an Iraqi prison. He's not wandering through the Green Zone.) Yesterday, Amnesty International issued the following:

Responding to news that Danny Fitzsimons' trial on murder charges in Iraq has been delayed until April, Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
"We've always said that it’s right that private military and security contractors are held fully responsible for any alleged wrongdoing when they're working in places like Iraq, but we’re seriously concerned about this case.
"Iraq has a dreadful record of unfair capital trials and there is a real danger of Danny Fitzsimons being sentenced to death after a shoddy judicial process.
"At the very least we want to see the Iraqi authorities ruling out capital punishment in his case."
Iraq is one of the biggest users of the death penalty in the world and Amnesty recently revealed that Iraq is preparing to execute approximately 900 prisoners, including 17 women.
The 900-plus prisoners have exhausted all their appeals and their death sentences are said to have been ratified by the Presidential Council, meaning that they could be executed at any time. The condemned prisoners have been convicted of offences such as murder and kidnapping, but many are thought to have been sentenced after unfair trials.

There is a petition on Facebook calling for Danny to be tried in the United Kingdom and not in England. Reprieve is raising funds for Danny's defense.

Turning to Iraq where elections are expected to be held March 7th. Alsumaria TV reports that Sadr City residents are complaining that their candidates have not shown to campaign nor have they bothered to "address people's complaints" regarding sewage and garbage issues. Delovan Barwari (Kurdish Herald) reports:

In the last elections, nearly all of the Kurdish political parties, along with a number of Chaldo-Assyrian and Turkmen parties, entered the elections under a banner called the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan (DPAK). DPAK secured 53 of the 275 parliamentary seats, became a key player in Iraqi politics, and allowed Kurds to expand their political influence in Baghdad. As a result of DPAK’s strong showing in the national parliamentary elections, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Secretary General Jalal Talabani, became the first Kurd in Iraq’s history to become president of the country.
However, the political atmosphere in Iraqi Kurdistan has changed quite significantly since then. A new opposition group, known simply as "Change" (or "Gorran" in Kurdish), has emerged in Iraqi Kurdistan as a strong political force. This new group is led by Jalal Talabani’s former deputy, Newshirwan Mustafa. The Change List received enough votes to turn heads, winning the majority of votes in the Sulaymaniyah province and receiving nearly 25% of total votes in the Kurdistan region. Many analysts expect the Change List to have a strong showing in the upcoming Iraqi national elections and, as Kirkuk will also be voting, some believe that the Change List will receive an even greater share of Kurdish votes this time around.
The new political reality in Kurdistan may weaken the Kurdish position in Baghdad as the fundamental source of Kurdish power has been previously fueled by the united stance of the various Kurdish political groups. Today, there are three major Kurdish political lists entering the Iraqi elections independently. The largest of the three remains the bloc led by the President of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, and the current Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (from the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the PUK, respectively), which will be joined once again by a number of smaller Kurdish political parties. The newly-emerged Change List will be the second largest political bloc that is comprised of a number of important players who formerly identified themselves with the PUK. Another noticeable political power is an alliance between the two Islamic parties in Kurdistan, the Islamic Group and the Islamic Union.

Gorran is fueled by US funds and US interests. And it's turnout wasn't remarkable in the provincial elections -- and that's before you consider how many US dollars were poured into funding the 'grassroots' party. AFP reported yesterday that Goran was claiming that Jala Talabani's forces had shot three of their workers -- this was PUK accused, not related to Talabani being the president of Iraq.

Today Reuters reports 1 police officer shot dead in Tal Afar, a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured one person and, dropping back to last night, 1 man shot dead in Mosul.

We'll note this from Debra Sweet's "March 2010: Gather in Washington to Protest the Wars!" (World Can't Wait):

Cindy Sheehan's Peace of the Action begins Camp OUT NOW on Saturday March 13 on the Mall. Peace Actions begin Monday March 22.
Peace of the Action Demands:

* Troops out of the Middle East, which includes drones, permanent bases, contractors and torture/detention facilities.
* Reparations for the peoples of these war torn regions and a fully funded VA system to reintegrate our soldiers healthfully into our society.

National Protests: End the Occupation of Iraq & Afghanistan on Saturday March 20 in Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles


TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

From the raucous tea party rallies to the painful sacrifices families
are making behind closed doors, voter angst and anger are sweeping the
country like a storm. Directly in its path: the 2010 midterm elections.
On February 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW examines the
strong impact this groundswell has already had on electoral politics,
and what we can expect in November. Our investigation uncovers what
motivates people who've come together under the tea party banner, and how a larger dissatisfaction among voters spells trouble for incumbents
in both parties, some of whom have decided to avert the storm by leaving Congress altogether.

Staying with TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Gloria Borger (CNN), Jackie Calmes (New York Times), Eamon Javers (Politico) and Alexis Simendinger (National Journal). Two things on Washington Week, first a PBS friend asked me to note that the website has been redesigned again and that they will be featuring many moments of past moments where the show weighed in on historic moments. (Ronald Reagan being sworn in -- the roundtable on that -- is currently offered.) So be sure to check out the website and it's new look and design (and remember the new show won't be posted online until Monday afternoon -- however, if you podcast, you will be able to download it no later than Saturday). Second, look at the line up. It would be great to say that they've had three female guests and one male guest many times before. They haven't. They have, however, had three male to one female. I've repeatedly stated that the chat & chew shows book like 'hot' radio programmed well into the 80s -- limiting women. (As late as 1985, Whitney Houston and other women suffered because many radio stations refused to play two women in a row. They'd play whole blocks of songs with male vocals but they just knew, JUST KNEW, two women in a row would run off listeners. Turns out it wasn't the listeners that were running scared, it was the programmers.) Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Bernadine Healy, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Nicole Kurakowa and Irene Natividad to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:

Blackwater 61
"Blackwater 61" is the call sign of a plane flown by the embattled government contractor Blackwater that crashed into a mountain in Afghanistan killing all onboard. The widow of one of the soldiers killed - a pilot herself - says the firm was negligent in the way it operated the flight. Steve Kroft reports.

The Bloom Box
Large corporations in California have been secretly testing a new device that can generate power on the spot, without being connected to the electric grid. They're saying it's efficient, clean, and saves them money. Will we have one in every home someday? Lesley Stahl reports.

Ground Zero
It's been eight years since the attack on the World Trade Center and billions of dollars have been spent, yet none of the promised buildings and memorial has been completed in what its developer calls "a national disgrace." Scott Pelley reports. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio notes, The Diane Rehm Show begins airing live at 10:00 a.m. EST on most NPR stations and streaming live online. For the first hour (domestic hour), Diane's guests are Melinda Henneberger (Politics Daily), Susan Page (USA Today) and Jerry Seib (Wall St. Journal). The second hour (international round up) features Karen DeYoung (Washington Post), James Kitfield (National Journal) and Moises Naim (Foreign Policy). Remember that the show is archived online (you can listen for free) and you can also subscribe to the podcast.

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