Thursday, March 04, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, March 4, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, lies continue about Iraq (so we unpack the days when David Corn couldn't stop screaming), only one network made time for the bombings in Iraq yesterday, and more.
Starting with the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric from yesterday:
Katie Couric: Now turning to Iraq which holds Parliamentary elections on Sunday and insurgents are doing everything they can to disrupt them. Today there were three suicide attacks in Baquba, northeast of the capital. At least 32 people were killed, 55 others injured. From Baghdad tonight, here's Elizabeth Palmer.
Elizabeth Palmer: With three days to go before the Iraqi election, this is the violence everyone was dreading. Two suicide bombers detonated their explosive packed cars outside Baquba's police stations wrecking lives, buildings, cars and water mains. Then authorities say a third bomber rode in an ambulance to the hospital and waited until he was surrounded by the wounded before blowing himself up. Almost 19 million voters are eligible to head to the polls on Sunday to elect a 325 member Parliament but election fever here is tempered by election fear.  Everyone remembers the huge truck bombs last fall in the heart of Baghdad that killed more than 150 people. Extremists have promised more violence to disrupt the political process so the government is running TV ads warning that so-called criminals are plotting mass murder and asking people to be hyper-vigilant. And on the street, security forces with extra patrols and check points are working hard to set the stage for an election that if it goes smoothly will reinforce Iraq's indepedence and stability. Not only that, if all goes well and a new Iraqi governemnt takes power in a peaceful transition that will allow 46,000 US combat troops to begin their pull-out almost immediately.  Elizabeth Palmer, CBS News, Baghdad.
You can click here to watch the segment. NBC Nightly News had time for "Comic Relief" -- 'reporting' on a web video.  A video which they refused to air.  They reported on it, refused to air it.  It advocates for something (consumer rights), Brian Williams explained.  But, having wasted all of our time with the report, he then went on to plug the Nightly News website.  Nightly News didn't think they should broadcast it . . . on TV but they were happy to broadcast it online. So Brian Williams used air time to self-promote while Diane Sawyer, over at ABC's World News had time to plug for Dominos. It only takes a second to note Domino's 4th quarter but if you're also doing an advetorial for them, you include plenty of shots of pizza and claims that their new ad campaign was responsive to the people and . . . Well, it doesn't leave you much time for actual news. For more on yesterday's bombings, you can see this article by Marc Santora (New York Times).
Bombings targeted Iraq again today.  BBC News reports two voting centers in Iraq were targeted with suicide bombings. BBC's NewsHour states it is believed that the bombings were attempts at targeting soldiers who were voting today (early voting which means voting began on the 4th and not ont he 5th as I had repeatedly stated -- my error and my apologies). Khalid al-Ansary, Waleed Ibrahim, Fadhel al-Badrani, Mohammed Abbas, Khaled Farhan, Sherko Raouf, Mustafa Mahmoud, Ayla Jean Yackley, Jack Kimball, Aref Mohammed, Alistair Lyon and Andrew Roche (Reuters) note 12 dead in the two bombings and a third explosion with 35 police and soldiers left injured and 22 civilians wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a fourth Baghdad bombing, a sticky bombing, which left one person injured and a Nineveh Province home bombing which injured two women and the home belonged to "Nawaf Saadoun Zaid, head of Unity of Iraq Coaltion in Nineveh (the coalition is headed by incumbent interior minister Bolani)".
This morning on the first hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, USA Today's Susan Page (guest host) spoke with Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers), Lawrence Korb (Center for American Progress) and former reporter Thomas E. Ricks about Iraq elections.
Susan Page: You know, here's an e-mail we've gotten from Tommy from Raleigh, North Carolina. He writes us, "For all my hope in 2008, I'm becoming disillusioned. Senator Obama campaigned against the war in Iraq. He promised that if he were elected, he would end the war and bring home the troops. More than a year into his presidency, he's failed to keep his promise. Since he hasn't kept even easy promises with easy time frames -- such as closing Gitmo within a year -- why should we believe his currently promised timetable for pulling out of Iraq?" You know, I'm not sure closing Gitmo was such an easy promise but, Tom, you know this message from Tommy is one I expect we would hear from any number of Obama voters.

Thomas E. Ricks: Well, Tommy, I would say you shouldn't believe cause I don't think it's going to happen. I think we're going to have several thousands, several tens of thousands US troops in Iraq on the day President Obama leaves office.
Susan: And --
Lawrence Korb: Let me say something about Obama.  He promised to get the combat troops out so I think evidently a lot of people didn't read the platform and he also said he was going to increase the presence in Afghanistan. Those were part of his campaign promises --
Susan: Well he did say combat troops but I don't think that was the message that people heard.
Lawrence Korb: I understand. A lot of people thought "Elect Obama, you're out of Iraq and wind down in Afghanistan, we can get back to dealing with the problems at home." There's no doubt about that. But, again, I think that he did say combat troops.So far --
Thomas E. Ricks: I hate that phrase combat troops. There is no pacifist wing of the Marine Corps or the 101st Airborne.  And I think it's effectively a lie to the American people. When they hear "I'll get combat troops out," what they hear is "No more American troops will die" -- and that is blatantly untrue. And I think the sooner the president addresses that, the better for him.
Susan Page: And we had Vice President [Joe] Biden say just the other day that while we're going to withdraw combat troops, the troops that we leave behind are guys who will be able to shoot straight -- in other words, people who could instantly be made into combat troops if the circumstances require that. What do you think about that, Nancy?
Nancy A. Youssef: Well I think it has to -- the broader question becomes: If Iraq does break into some level of violence, what is the role of the 50,000 troops there? Do they sit idly by?  Do they let -- do they intervene? Do they put themselves in harm's way? And what can 50,000 troops do?  We -- At the peak, there were 172,000 troops to bring down the sectarian violence. What can 50,000 troops, who aren't supposed to be doing combat, really do? It's going to be a difficult predicament at that point if-if in fact some level of violence returns.
Lawrence Korb: I think Vice President Biden was also trying to say that we can protect our own troops because, again, you get back to the question of casulties, yes, we have 50,000 but this not, you know, a group of people who can't do anything so if anything happens and they come after us we can protect ourselves.
We included Korb's crap and that last statement by him above was nothing but crap.  He needs to stick to reality and now what he wishes would be said. That's a huge problem for Korb.  Asked a direct question by a caller who said she'd take her answer off the air, Korb declared, "I do think the real question she was raising . . ."  Her question was basic: Iraq currency.  She most likely asked it because of the currency switch prior to the Iraq War.  But Korb always knows best and ignored her question.  Korb's a damn idiot.
But administration officials also acknowledged that the bigger worry for the United States was not who would win the elections, but the possibility that the elections -- and their almost certainly messy aftermath -- could ignite violence that would, at the least, complicate the planned withdrawal.
In part for that reason, "we're not leaving behind cooks and quartermasters," Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Wednesday in a telephone interview. The bulk fo the remaining American troops, he said, "will still be guys who can shoot straight and go get the bad guys."
Gen. Ray Odierno [. . .]
Nancy Youssef and Susan Page were interpreting it correctly.  Lawrence Korb is the idiot who can't listen.  Which is rather telling, isn't it?  Freud wrote of the criminal's compulsion to confession and when you combine that with projection, you understand a passage excerpted above that we'll again note:
Lawrence Korb: Let me say something about Obama.  He promised to get the combat troops out so I think evidently a lot of people didn't read the platform and he also said he was going to increase the presence in Afghanistan. Those were part of his campaign promises --
Susan: Well he did say combat troops but I don't think that was the message that people heard.
Lawrence Korb: I understand. A lot of people thought "Elect Obama, you're out of Iraq and wind down in Afghanistan, we can get back to dealing with the problems at home." There's no doubt about that. But, again, I think that he did say combat troops.So far --
Lawrence Korb is blaming the American people.  They're just too stupid, he politely says, to know what's what.  Barack said "combat troops."  Did he, Larry?  Did he you piece of s**t, Reagan reject?
Ava, Kat and I were speaking on campuses to groups truly opposed to the illegal war and we would have to unpack that lie daily.  And we caught him saying it at two events: "We want to end the war now!"  At his little praise tent circuses, his little "Oh Come Let Us Adore Me" events, he would say that.  And the crowd would go crazy.  Men and women would tear up.  Barack damn well knew what he was doing and Larry Korb needs to stop lying.  I know that's hard for Larry, but he needs to stop.
We're not even at the distinction of "combat troops" right now.  We're at the reality.  And Larry wanted to 'correct' the listener didn't do much of a 'correction' did he?  Did Barack break his campaign promise:

All together: "YES HE DID!"
The campaign promise was one brigade a month out of Iraq on his first day in office.  That was the promise and that promise was broken. Larry's a damn liar. And I'm damn well not in the mood.  In the Friday, March 7, 2008 snapshot, we noted:
Obama still lacks the leadership to take control of his campaign -- that would have required firing Power.  Instead she resigned indicating that he's unable to run a campaign as well as unable to tell the truth.  Power -- who also went to work for Obama in 2005 when he was first elected to the US Senate (November 2004) -- also had to deal with the BBC interview she'd given.  Barack Obama has not promised to pull ALL troops out of Iraq in 16 months.  He has promised the American people that "combat" troops would be removed.  But promises, promises (as Dionne Warwick once sang) . . .
Stephen Sackur: "You said that he'll revisit it [the decision to pull troops] when he goes to the White House.  So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out within sixteen months, isn't a commitment is it?"
Samantha Power: "You can't make a commitment in whatever month we're in now, in March of 2008 about what circumstances are going to be like in January 2009.  We can'te ven tell what Bush is up to in terms of troops pauses and so forth.  He will of course not rely upon some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a US Senator."
Which would mean Mr. Pretty Speeches has been lying to the American people.  (Add the "AGAIN!") 
Her rise was swift, her fall even faster.  Our Modern Day Carrie Nations took part in the "Bring the troops home and send them to Darfur" nonsense.  [For more on that nutso crowd, see Julie Hollar's "The Humanitarian Tempatation" (Extra!).]  Despite presenting herself recently as against the Iraq War from the start, the public record has never backed that up.  But it is true that she wanted wars in Africa and was selling them under "humanitarian" guise.  "Stop the killing!" she cried but if she really wanted to stop the killing, she might have tried to speak out against the ongoing genocie in Iraq (which has also produced the largest refugee crisis in the world).  She didn't care about that.  Probably because it demonstrates that sending armed forces in is not an answer.  Again, if Barack Obama had any leadership abilities, he would have announced today that he fired his longterm advisor.  He did not, she resigned.  (She foolishly doesn't grasp that this is her Alexander Haig moment and there is no comeback.)  Power was not a campaigner, she was a high level, longterm foreign policy advisor being groomed to be the next Secretary of State.  As Krissah Williams (Washington Post) notes, Senator Clinton's response to Power's BBC interview was to note Power's agreement that Obama's pledge to have "combat" troops out in 16 months was never more than a "best-case scenario".  Hillary Clinton: "Senator Obama has made his speech opposing Iraq in 2002 and the war in Iraq the core of his campaign, which makes these comments especially troubling.  While Senator Obama campaigns on his [pledge] to end the war, his top advisers tell people abroad that he will not rely on his own plan should he become president.  This is the latest example of promising the American people one thing on the campaign trail and telling people in other countries another.  You saw this with NAFTA as well." 
An explosive bit of news in the middle of a campaign.  The Washington Post reported on it, the Boston Globe as well.  And the rest?  Two days later at Third we offered, "Editorial: The Whores of Indymedia"  which noted:
So determined to not only avoid the reality but also smear Hillary Clinton, Air Berman (The Nation) spent Friday digging through Meet The Press transcripts. The allegedly anti-war Nation magazine has yet to tell their online readers of the revelations broadcast on BBC.   
Truthout, so quick to editorialize that Hillary Clinton should drop out of the race, has no story up about the revelation. BuzzFlash is working overtime to smear Hillary Clinton but has nothing to say about Bambi's Iraq realities. Common Dreams is avoiding the subject as is The Progressive, CounterPunch, Truthdig, go down the list. All have time to smear Hillary, none have time to tell the truth about Bambi's 'pledge.' Where is Tom Hayden!  
Remember when Americans Against the Escalation (or whatever the name of that faux grassroots 'movement') imploded? There was Tommy, mere second later, writing about it online at The Nation. A call to the magazine got the story pulled but it resurfaced a day later, on Sunday, in a slightly different form with an additional note tacked on. Certainly Bambi's non-pledge is as important as the implosion of a non-peace group.

They ignored it.  In fairness to Tom Hayden, July 4, 2008, he suddently discovered the Samantha Power BBC interview and wrote about it for the first time. And then he claimed the media ignored it (Boston Globe and Washington Post covered it) and that Hillary's campaign ignored it.  Tom-Tom's a damn liar. Hillary's campaign called it out the day of, they issued press releases the following Monday (BBC aired the interview on a Friday), they talked about in conference calls with the press.  Do you know the reaction?  Andrea Mitchell laughed.  Now maybe she was laughing at David Corn who exploded and started yelling and called it dirty politics for the Hillary campaign to bring it up.  There was no doubt in anyone's mind who 'reporter' David Corn was supporting.  His tantrums, his attacks, his threats, his non-stop errors made it very, very clear.  If Tom-tom wants to blame-blame, he can take it up with David Corn who did more than anyone to kill that story.  He shrieked like a banshee.  No one was ever more shrill.  David Corn turned every press conference into a performance piece and it was appalling.
Why does it matter?  It matters because that's how reality got buried by the press -- especially Panhandle Media which Korb's organization is a part of. (Panhandle Media has to beg for money -- Pacifica, for example -- because they can't make it any other way. They're the bums on the street corner.)  Don't you dare blame the voters.  The voters were never told about Power's interview.  Panhandle Media wouldn't allow it.  (Amy Goodman, the Queen of Beggar Media, never covered it on Democracy Now!)  Those liars, passing themselves off as objective and truth tellers, are the ones who deceived the American people.  It's why they ignore the Iraq War now.  Because there's lots of blood on their hands.
Don't you dare blame the voters when the press -- All Things Media Big And Small -- worked overtime to give Barack one excuse after another.  And when they could join thousands of others in the Cult of St. Barack and hear the Christ child proclaim, "We want to end the war now!" At his revival meetings, he said "NOW!"  No, he thundred, "NOW!" Speaking to the New York Times, he said "combat troops" -- and like Ricks, Michael Gordon called that nonsense out and did so to Barack's face.  Ricks' finest moment was the section excerpted.  Nancy A. Youssef had many fine moments (and we may grab another tomorrow).  Lawrence Korb was a non-stop embarrassment including his ridiculous claim on Afghanistan that "they" wanted "us" to invade.  Did they?  That's not how I remember and I really doubt that's how history will.
Before we move on to the elections, Susan Page noted on air that The Diane Rehm Show had won the Shorty Award for brief news for their Twitter Account and that Diane thanked all the show's Twitter followers.  So congratulations to Diane and her crew on their award.
Voting began today in Iraq. It concludes on Sunday with the official day for elections. In addition to voting in Iraq, 16 other countries will have polling stations due to Iraq's refugee crisis. Stephen Starr (Asia Times) reports on the voting in Syria (which starts tomorrow) and notes that "candidates see rich pickings both there and in Jordan."  Tuesday's snapshot included, "Iraq's Sunni vice president Tarek al-Hashemi is in Syria. For those who have forgotten, al-Hashemi vetoed (as a member of the presidency council) an early election law in late 2009 citing the fact that it did not take into account Iraq's large refugee population. Alsumaria TV reports that he 'thanked Syria for its 'historic' stand of embracing refugees despite bilateral political rows.' Iran's Press TV notes that he 'is also expected to meet with representatives of his country's expatriates' while in Syria." AP notes that this is the first visit by an Iraqi government official (senior) since the August 19th Baghdad bombings (which Nouri and others have blamed on al Qaeda in Iraq, Ba'athists and the Syrian government -- excepting only Wile E. Coyote due to the belief that the Road Runner had him too busy to join that day's coalition of violence).

Meanwhile Marc Santora and Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) report that Hakim al-Zamili is one of the candidates despite charges that he ran "death squads" and that his campaign "runs the risk that Shiite leaders will be seen as taking steps against only those who persecuted Shiites, not Sunnis." Middle East Online focuses on Sunni voters and candidate Sheikh Ayfan Saadoun al-Ayfan, noting: "The sheikh is part of the Iraqi Unity Alliance (IUA), led by Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, a secular Shiite, as well as Sunni tribal leaders who formed militias and turned against Al-Qaeda. This time around, around 800,000 voters are registered to vote in Anbar, according to the Independent High Electoral Commission in Ramadi, the provincial capital." Charles Levinson (Wall St. Journal) adds of Sunni voters in Iraq, "Many of Iraq's predominantly Sunni parties have accused the Iraqi High Election Commission, which is overseeing the election, of bias. They have accused the government of arresting their candidates, harassment, and using government institutions for campaign purposes."  Ian Black (Guardian) observes, "Arab media coverage of the campaign has been intense, with daily special reports on satellite channel al-Jazeera and its Saudi-owned rival, al-Arabiyya. News of bombings, shootings and assassinations is drearily familiar. The novelty is that the election is being treated as a genuine contest between competing parties: that is a rarity in an area ruled by presidents-for-life and token or co-opted opposition groups. The stakes are correspondingly higher than in 2005." The Ahrar Party is vying for votes and they issued the following:
Ayad Jamal Aldin: 'I will amend the Iraqi Constitution'
In a final press conference before Sunday's election, Ayad Jamal Aldin recognised the sacrifice that the Iraqi security forces are making during this important time and thanked them for their efforts on their day of voting.  
He went on to discuss disappointment, if not surprise, that Ahrar had had a large number of their billboards vandalized and decimated. 
Q and A:  
Q:  You talked about the sabotage of your billboards being linked to other political parties, who in particular do you think is responsible for this? 
A: We received information yesterday that 4WD government cars were driving around Baghdad at midnight and sabotaging the billboards. We couldn't say exactly who these cars belong to; however, the IHEC has an obligation to find out and should disqualify any party that is not conforming to the strict law set out by the IHEC. 
Q: One week before the election, a rumor started that the government will arrest Muqtada al-Sadr if he ever comes back to the country, what is your opinion on that matter?
A: Muqtada al-Sadr is a true Iraqi patriot and a religious leader, and it's disgraceful for such rumours to touch this person.  
Q: You have mentioned that you would reverse the de-Ba'athication law.  How will you justify this to the thousands of people who have been victims in the past of the Ba'ath Party, and how will you guarantee they will not try to take the power back in their hands?
A: We've said before if we won the election and formed the new government, we would form special courts that will only prosecute the Ba'ath party members who committed crimes against the Iraqi people and they will be dealt extremely severely, but that doesn't mean that all Ba'ath Party members are criminals.         
Q: Are you against the current constitution?           
A: Yes. The Iraqi constitution was written without thought and under the intimidation of foreign influences. We will set about rewriting this immediately.   
Q: Voting has already started for the security forces. Have you been made aware of any violations so far?   
A:  We've been informed that some of the security forces did not have their names on the list of voters in their local polling stations. This has resulted in them not having the chance to exercise their vote. 
Sitting on a couch in a penthouse hotel suite just blocks from the White House, Ayad Jamal al-Din lets cigar smoke curl in lazy trails around his head as he considers the fate of his nation. "I am not hopeful that Iraq can yet fly alone," he says. It is a familiar refrain that the 49-year-old cleric, a fiercely secular Shiite, conveys to anyone in Washington who is willing to listen.
At this NYT webpage, on the left is an audio link (4 minutes, 38 seconds) of Stephen Farrell discussing Iraqi elections with Marc Santora yesterday after the Baquba bombings. Here's an excerpt:

Stephen Farrell: Marc you've been covering this election for several months now. What's the feel out on the streets? 

Marc Santora: I think there's the campaign that you see and then the campaign that you feel and hear expressed by ordinary Iraqis. Visibly, you see the campaign everywhere mainly in the banners that now shroud the landscape but under that, if you talk to people, it's really a feeling of both exasperation and fear because with these elections, there's always the undercurrent of violence.           

Stephen Farrell: We did see some of that today in Baquba. Can you tell us some of what happened there?          

Marc Santora: It was a series of coordinated attacks aimed both at government buildings and at inflicting the most damage possible -- similar to the kind of attacks we've seen throughout the country, mainly in Baghdad, since August, that have left hundreds of Iraqis dead.                           

Stephen Farrell: There's been much talk of security progress, does it seem evident on the streets to you? Do Iraqis seem to be comfortable at the moment?          

Marc Santora: Well Iraq is about to go into almost complete lockdown. Around 48 hours around the election, all the-the traffic will start to clear off the streets. And on election day itself, people won't be able to drive at all. And you'll have tens of thousands of security officers blanketing the country and check points set up. 
Back to NPR's The Diane Rehm Show where Susan Page spoke with Kubalt Talabani who is in DC as a Kurdish representative.
Susan Page: So tell us, what is the Kurdish perspective on this election? What do you think Kurdish voters will be doing?
Kubat Talabani: We're expecting a very high turnout as usual in the Kurdistan region and I think the competition nation-wide is-is far more fierce than it has been in previous elections. I think that's a testament to how important these elections are for Iraq and for the Kurdistan Region.

Susan Page: And how's this -- how is this different from the last election five years ago?
Kubat Talabani: Well, uhm, some technical differences in that previously voters voted for just a slate of candidates whereas this time around voters will actually vote for the slate but also the-the individual candidates on those slates so hopefully we'll have a far more accountable Parliament because people will actually be specifically voting for those candidates. And I think, just generally, the 2005 Shi'ite political parties formed one big coalition, the Kurdish political parties came into the election under one big umbrella and we all saw the general boycott from the Sunni Arab community. This time around this is a very different situation. We're expecting a very broad turnout from across the country and there is competition within the Shi'ite parties for the vote, there are competions with the Kurdish parties for the Kurdish vote. So the stakes are very high and the candidates have embraced the art of electioneering and conducted some negative campaigns which has obviously resulted in some tensions boiling over on a few occasions.
Susan Page: What do you mean by negative campaigns?
Kubalt Talabani: Well as we see here in the United States and around the world, people are targeting others credibility, others' reputations, so the negative ad campaigns are going on which is, I think, a sign of the maturity of the Iraqi political process where it's becom -- it's becoming an issues based election rather than just relying on votes based on party patronage.
Not noted, the DC rep Kubalt Talabani is also the son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.  Reporting from the KRG, Patrick Martin (Globe and Mail) adds, "Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Kurds have progressed even faster. There was little of the fighting that gripped the South, except around the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul that straddle the Kurdish-Arab divide (and remained disputed territory, claimed by both sides). And where once they coped with a meagre income, these days they receive 17 per cent of the revenue Iraq derives from oil. That's enough to fund the fancy new buildings (though much work needs to be done on the basics of life such as education)." The Ahrar Party issued the following:
Ayad Jamal Aldin, leader of Ahrar 374, has urged all Iraqis to vote with their heads, as well as their hearts, in this weekend's election.
He said today: "Right now, the current crop of politicians who have got us into this sectarian-fueled mess are out there trying to bribe the Iraqi people into voting for them.  You are being offered free chickens, rice, even sports equipment!  I am not able to offer you such gifts, but I am able to offer you something more precious:  The future of an Iraq, united, independent and strong.
On March 7, we - the proud Iraqi people - get to make a choice between more of the same, or a change for the better.  I urge you not to give in to the corrupt, the weak and the outsiders.  Instead, imagine what our country could be.  Imagine an Iraq where there are jobs, electricity and water and where we can walk down the street without fearing for our children's safety.  That is the future that we can have, but it is up to the Iraqi people to have the strength to choose change.  On Sunday, you will vote; and it is only by voting that your voice will be heard.
"The ballot box brings us together as Iraqis, with shared values, beliefs and aspirations.  Together, as Iraqis, we can make a postive change for a prosperous, united and secure future.  And that is what Ahrar stands for.  That is what my party - Ahrar 374 - continues to fight for."
"You should vote for the party that you really believe will make you safe, and bring jobs and electricity.   Your vote is secret, so nobody will ever know who you voted for.  You have nothing to fear, except fear itself.  If you want change, you can make it happen tomorrow.  Vote for Ahrar 374."
For further information, contact:
Ahrar Media Bureau
Tel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942
About Ayad Jamal Aldin:
Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.
Yesterday the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the US House Veterans Affairs Committee held a meeting, I discussed it with Marcia last night for her site:
Marcia: So today, was it the full committee? Or was it a subcommittee?

C.I.: It was a subcommittee, it was the Military Personnel Subcommittee. "When it comes to repeal, the question is not whether but how and when," Susan Davis declared at the start of the meeting she chaired.

Marcia: I was just going to ask you about that. Susan Davis is from California. Is she really a yes vote on repeal?

C.I.: Yes, she is. I'm not going to go through everyone, okay? There are some that are on the fence and that people are advocating with and I hope it's successful -- and I'm advocating to two on the House Armed Services Committee, trying to explain why repeal is so important and so important now. But Susan Davis is a firm "yes" on this issue.

Marcia: Can I get one more strong yes and then I won't ask again.

C.I.: Sure. Loretta Sanchez, also from California, is a firm yes. Her vote is not in question. This is a military service member and readiness issue for her as well as a dignity and rights issue.

Marcia: Was she at the hearing? And what did she say?

C.I.: She did attend the hearing.

Marcia: I know I said I'd just ask once but can I ask one other thing: Are all Republicans opposed to this?

C.I.: No. How many will stand by that in a vote, however, I don't know. See, I agree with you completely that if you want to repeal, you do it. You don't need to study a year. But Dems will lose seats in Congress in the elections this year if the normal pattern holds. They may lose control of one of the two houses. They may not but they, historically, will lose seats, historical pattern. So what does that mean? Super-majority has become the Democratic Party's mantra. When they lose seats, a year from now, and this study comes back, what happens? I think we'll hear from some leadership, "We can't do this. We don't have the votes." Now if they lose control of one house, they may very well not have the votes. But that's why you can't wait a year on this. If it's going to be repealed it needs to take place now.

Marcia: Does anyone seem aware of that?

C.I.: The Democrats on the subcommittee are very aware of that. Chair Susan Davis asked specifically what was being studied. I'm quoting her asking about this year-long study, "Do you anticipate that focusing on whether or how? Or a combination of both?" General Carter F. Ham responded that they would use "a survey instrument of the force and of their family" as well as "focus groups some of them specifically trageted to specialzied groups and families" in the military and, last one, outreach through social media to people in and out of the Defense Department.

Marcia: So that sounds good.

C.I.: It does. Too bad it didn't end there.

Marcia: Okay.

C.I.: Joe Wilson, from South Carolina, is the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee. Now we've discussed Susan Davis' question. She hands off to Wilson and he asks if the study can look to see if "current law threatens or undermines readiness in any significant way" and also would it significantly improve the readiness.

Marcia: That's not a 'how,' that's a 'should we repeal'?

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


Americans have a longstanding love affair with food -- the modern 
supermarket has, on average, 47,000 products. But do we really know what  
goes into making the products we so eagerly consume? On Friday, March 5 
at 8:30 PM (check local listings), David Brancaccio talks with Robert 
Kenner, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary Food, Inc., which  
takes a hard look at the secretive and surprising journey food takes on       
the way from processing plants to our dinner tables. The two discuss why  contemporary food processing secrets are so closely guarded, their 
impact on our health, and another surprising fact: how consumers are
actually empowered to make a difference.