Friday, March 12, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, vote counting continues, the gas baggrery over less than a third of the votes never stops, and more.
Today on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane was joined by Nadia Bilbassy (MCB TV), Michael Hirsh (Newsweek) and Warren Strobel (McClatchy).
Diane Rehm: Michael Hirsh, what are the early results of the elections in Iraq?
Michael Hirsh: Well they're just trickling in and it's going to take days and possibly weeks before we know the final results of the vote and much less what the final shape of the government is going to look like. But in the early returns it does seem as if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law Party uh-uh mainly Shi'ite party but not only Shi'ite party is dominating the returns particularly in some of the southern provinces where the vote have come in. Uh-uh, Ayad Allawi's largely secular but still Sunni dominated party is lagging behind. And the big question hanging over this is how long is this going to take to piece something together that will last and of course I think the nightmare that both the Americans there and the Iraqis themselves remember all to well was what happened in December 2005 when it took more than 150 days to piece together a government and during that time a sectarian war broke out.
Diane Rehm: Nadia?
Nadia Bilbassy: I think then, I spoke to somebody who works for the UN there and he was telling me he was striked by how normal was the process. You have to credit the Iraqis. They've taken to this election like they've been doing it for 100 years. And it's very interesting, although they distrust all politicians but they showed up in number. About 62% showed up in this election and, of course, the government is going to take a long time to form and that's understandable. But if you look at the example, Iraq is not a democracy but the process of the election is a democratic one and [. . .] in the Arab world. If you look at how this government is going to emerge, the coalition part is going to emerge to form a government. You know, the jokeying for power, include this party or that party, who's going to be the king maker? Will it be the Kurds? Will it be the Sadarist? Who's going to be represented? I think it's fascinating to watch and the rest of the Arab world will be watching but I think ultimately the ones who were out of the picture were the Americans. The Iraqis were in charge of the security as well.
Diane Rehm: What about -- what about allegations of fraud, Warren?
Warren P. Strobel: I think the UN spokesman in Iraq today said that these allegations of fraud are uh overwrought or exaggerated and he sees no widespread fraud as the type we saw in the Afghan election. Uhm -- I agree with uh Michael the government formation is one of the key questions. I think the overall question is can Iraq find a way to incorporate the Sunnis into political life. These Sunnis are 21% roughly of the country, they ran it during Saddam's years. They have seen their roles marginalized. And if there's not some way to bring them back into politics, they're going to return to violence. And you know, American officials talk like this is the Red Zone, we're at the end of the day here. I talked a couple of weeks ago to Ryan Crocker, the former [US] Ambassador to Iraq, and he said this can go either way and it can go either way for a very long time. So it's very much on the bubble.
That's about all the crap we can stomach. What a load of S**T. Let's start first with "Saddam." In 2003, Saddam Hussein was driven from power by a military invasion/coup. I don't care for the man. Does that mean I call him "Saddam"? Do we call Hitler "Adolf"? No, but Hitler's first name, if mispronounced, doesn't summon images of gay (and straight) sex. "Sodom," as Colin Powell like to put it. Hussein was driven from power in 2003. You better believe that some of Diane's listeners started listening recently. (Her show adds listeners all the time -- one of the few radio shows -- public radio or commercial -- that you can say that about. And that's especially true of her Friday shows which features an hour discussion of domestic issues and an hour discussion of international issues.)
So that's the first part. The second? Why is Nadia ever brought on? Well, they bring on right-wing crazies during the domestic hour so presumably Nadia's the international crazy who comes on during the second hour. She never knows a damn thing except when she knows but chooses to lie. Nadia, you're supposed to be a reporter, not ambassador to the west. Stick to facts and you'll do more for good will than anything else.
About 62% showed up! Nadia's got her Happy Face stamp out, she's putting smiley faces on all the pages. 62% is a marked drop from the last parliamentary elections which, Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor via McClatchy) reminded this week was 79.6%. That's a drop off of 17.6% and, no, that is not a good sign no matter how many Happy Face stickers you affix to the paper. Nadia doesn't tell that story. The full truth is sacrificed by Nadia who prefers to offer the FOOL TRUTH.
Warren and Michael didn't embarrass themselves as much as Nadia (Warren had one bad one, we'll get to) and often had some interesting guesses but what a waste of time. Excuse me, there are real issues and we didn't get them, now did we? Yesterday the State Dept released "2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" -- with a lengthy section on Iraq. Why wasn't that discussed instead of the sort of gas baggery we got (the sort of gas baggery you will find on cable and any other program)? Well, for one thing, we're not hearing from reporters covering Iraq. Jane Arraf, Leila Fadel, Ernesto Londono, Anthony Shadid, Marc Santora, Sam Dagher, Liz Sly, Ned Parker, etc. They're not on the show. So everyone's trying to brush up quickly on Iraq before they comment. And it shows. Oh, does it show.
Warren declared, "I think the UN spokesman in Iraq today said that these allegations of fraud are uh overwrought or exaggerated and he sees no widespread fraud as the type we saw in the Afghan election." Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize that McClatchy prized the UN so much. In fact, I'm thinking of about a dozen reports the UN issued on Iraq in 2009 that McClatchy never covered. As for Ad Melkert, that's who he is referring to, he's a credible voice?
Let's drop back to the end of February. That's when the impartial observer Ad Melkert pennded a column for the Washington Post. The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative in Iraq wrote a column where he warned "foreigner observers should be cautious about trying to understand the new balance of forces" while writing as anything but an independent observer. An independent observer is not vested in any outcome. Ad Melkert exposes himself as anything but independent. He never should have written the column. Should the Post have published it? Absolutely. Public officials disgracing themselves has always been news and when they disgrace themselves it certainly saves money that might have instead been spent on investigative reporting. As you read the column, you quickly grasped that the UN would not investigate any charges of fraud after the election because their position is that the elections must take place and must be seen as valid regardless of whether or not they are. The Iraqi people and their desires are put on hold because the UN's going in with their own determination of what is appropriate and needed. The UN has done a lot of good work during its existence and it's also done some awful things. Ad Melkert's column explained how that happens -- the UN puts the needs of a people second to what they hope might bring 'stability' -- stability to the people? No, less grief to on the international scene. And it's that attitude that's allowed the UN to repeatedly look the other way with regards to so many despots. (Look the other way does not mean that the only alternative is combat. War is not the only answer -- no matter what Bush or Barack might have you believe.) So the needs and desires of the people take backseat to the UN's hope that they've guessed correctly about what might stabilize the international system.
We'll come back to Ad Melkert but for laughter, check out the first hour, specifically Ron Elving snit fit when a caller brings up Patrick Kennedy's remarks this week and Ron starts insisting that it's hard to cover Iraq (it's hard to cover any story, Ron, it's dangerous for any reporter, grow the hell up) and besides NPR has always, always covered Iraq. Grow the hell up, Ron, and don't lie. Was NPR covering Iraq during the four weeks recently that they went without filing a single story? Was that coverage? And if a Kennedy complains, what might cause to complain? How about the fact that every single broadcast network pulled shuttered their standing desks. They have no reporters. Now for big moments, they'll ship someone in. A fly-over 'report.' ABC will grab the BBC's coverage.
US House Rep Patrick Kennedy is not running for re-election. He made a statement this week (Ava and I covered it in this morning's gina & krista round-robin) during the House floor vote on Afghanistan on Wednesday. Here are his remarks:
If anybody wants to know where cynicism is -- cynicism is that there's one, two press people in this gallery. We're talking about Eric Massa twenty-four-seven on the TV. We're talking about war and peace, $3 billion, 1,000 lives and no press? No press? You want to know why the American public is fit? They're fit because they're not seeing their Congress do the work they are sent to do. It's because the press, the press of the United States is not covering the most significant issue of national importance, and that's the laying of lives down in the nation for the service of our country. It's despicable the national press corps right now.
That's actually the finest moment the Kennedy family has had since Ted spoke out against the Iraq War. There's nothing for Patrick Kennedy to be ashamed of or embarrassed by and I'm real sick of hearing defenses from the press. Along with the nonsense from Ron on Diane's show, you can check out Washington Unplugged (link has text and video) from yesterday. There's nothing appalling or out of bounds in Patrick Kennedy's words. And all the faux shock fails to address reality. Ava and I have noted this at Third, Kat's noted it at her site, Wally's noted it at his site, I've noted in the snapshot: Where is the press?
We attend Congressional hearings all the time (we don't usually follow floor votes). Unless you have a 'hot' speaker, you really don't have the press. You have AP and that's generally about it. Congress is holding public hearings. Why? If no press is there, why? That's not me picking on Congress, that's me making the point that the press isn't doing their job. Cut backs are not an excuse. Open government means open government. The press has a responsibility and they are not meeting it. Patrick looked up and saw two reporters. That was it. He's exactly right to call it out. It was a vote on funding a war. Where were the reporters?
Well we saw where they are on Diane's show today. They're gas bagging about things they know nothing about. Warren, who is McClatchy's go-to in Iraq. I'm not knocking Sahar Issa. She does a wonderful job. But she's an Iraqi and thus far has not been allowed to just file on her own. (I would let her file on her own. I think she's more than demonstrated her gifts and abilities.) So who does McClatchy have? When McClatchy has NO ONE (that is the answer currently) that's very telling. But it doesn't matter, it doesn't stop the gas baggery. None of the three were on the ground during the elections but they yammered away, didn't they? Any of them could have read the State Dept report but they ignored that, didn't they?
We're not getting the coverage of things that are important and the coverage we get is so awful. Patrick rightly noted a scandal or 'scandal' (depending on your take of it) eating up all the oxygen in the room. And it's always something like that because the press wastes our time with gas bagging. Five out of 18 provinces have a partial recount and we're wasting time on Diane Rehm's show talking about what might happen in the elections. WE DON'T KNOW. And that's a message media should be able to send. They'd be more trusted if they'd rely on that and stop trying to act like an expert on everything. Salam Faraj (AFP) explains of these partial votes from five provinces: "The results released so far represent less than a third of votes cast." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) also notes the reality, "But with only 17% to 30% of the votes counted in each of those provinces, the results are inconclusive."
This month alone, we attended Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearings that there was no press at. As Patrick Kennedy points out, war's a big issue. Where was the press? Patrick Kennedy was correct and Ron Elving and others can try to lie and justify but he was exactly correct and he knew what he was talking about -- all the business Congress does in public (as it is supposed to in a democracy) and a press that would rather gas bag than report. And let's be really clear about one thing: Patrick said it. He's not the only member of Congress voicing that sentiment in private. We've heard it over and over, how your committee or subcomittee is holding a hearing, how it's an important issue and the press doesn't even turn out.
On elections, yesterday's snapshot included: "Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports some Sunnis are very nervous about the outcome and that one man she spoke with is planning to leave Iraq as a result of the 'early release' or 'early figures' on the voting (which Fadel notes is only a partial count of four provinces in Iraq)." The link did not work. Click here for the story.
Yesterday Oliver August (Times of London) reported on charges Ayad Allawi was making of fraud in the election and August explained, "Several violations alleged by Mr Allawi have been confirmed by diplomats and election observers. Haider al-Abadi, a senior adviser to Mr al-Maliki, spent about an hour inside the election data entry centre on Wedensday, a violation of election rules. Supporters of Mr Allawi claim that the adviser falsified nationwide records, but they have not presented any evidence. On the same day, six clerks at the main election centre were dismissed for offences committed while inputting voter tallies."
Caroline Alexander and Daniel Williams (Bloomberg News) add, "It's not clear whether the complaints represent sour grapes from defeated politicians or concerns that could spread among the public and revive sectarian and ethnic violence in the U.S.- occupied country, which has the world's third-largest oil reserves." Ad Melkert, we said we'd get back him. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) interviewed him. Strobel said on Diane's show today, "I think the UN spokesman in Iraq today said that these allegations of fraud are uh overwrought or exaggerated and he sees no widespread fraud as the type we saw in the Afghan election. " That's not what he said to Arraf.
Not what he said? New topic, try not what the SOFA says. Thomas E. Ricks and Marc Lynch are dueling at Foreign Policy and I'd love for Marc to be correct but Ricks is. Ricks' argument is that Maj Gen Tony Cucolo has asked for 800 "combat" troops to remain in Iraq after August. That actuallyd oes back Ricks up in terms of what he's been saying. Marc Lynch reads the story and says, "Okay. If the "unravelling of Iraq" which Ricks has been predicting for the last year is of the same magnitude as this possible extension of 800 troops in small advisory units which may not be necessary, then I think we could probably all live with it." Who's "we"? No, I can't live with it. Ricks is correct that this proves him right. Ricks is correct. Ricks said "combat" troops might stay on past August and there is a request for them to by a general. That means Ricks is correct. For the record, as we do, Ricks mocks the notion of "combat" troops -- all troops are combat troops.
Yesterday the US State Dept issued 2009 "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" and we'll note this from the Iraq section:
During the year the following significant human rights problems were reported: arbitrary or unlawful killings; insurgent and terrorist bombings and executions; disruption of authority by sectarian, criminal, and extremist groups; arbitrary deprivation of life; disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; impunity; poor conditions in pretrial detention and prison facilities; denial of fair public trials; delays in resolving property restitution claims; immature judicial institutions lacking capacity; arbitrary arrest and detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; other abuses in internal conflicts; limits on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association due to sectarianism and extremist threats and violence; limits on religious freedom due to extremist threats and violence; restrictions on freedom of movement; large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees; lack of protection of refugees and stateless persons; lack of transparency and significant widespread corruption at all levels of government; constraints on international organizations and nongovernmental organizations' (NGOs) investigations of alleged violations of human rights; discrimination against and societal abuses of women and ethnic and religious minorities; human trafficking; societal discrimination and violence against individuals based on sexual orientation; and limited exercise of labor rights.
Insurgent and extremist violence, coupled with weak government performance in upholding the rule of law, resulted in widespread and severe human rights abuses. Although their influence and ability to attack has significantly weakened since 2007, terrorist groups such as AQI and other extremist elements continued to launch highly destructive attacks, attempting to fuel sectarian tensions and undermine the government's ability to maintain law and order. Extremist and AQI attacks continued against ISF and government officials. AQI and other extremists also conducted high-profile bombings targeting urban areas, particularly prominent government buildings, Shia markets, and mosques, and killing Shia religious pilgrims. Religious minorities, sometimes labeled "anti-Islamic," were often targeted in the violence. Insurgents also carried out a number of attacks against other civilians. During the year, despite some reconciliation and easing of tensions in several provinces, the government's human rights performance consistently fell short of according citizens the protections the law provides.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Xinhua (link has text and audio) drops back to yesterday to note 1 police officer killed and two more injured in roadside bombing outside of Falluja while eight people were injured in Diyala Province bombings and shootings.
March 20th, a variety of organizations, groups and individuals will be standing up for peace and against war by taking part in DC marches, LA marches and San Francisco marches. The Green Party of the United States issued the following:
For Immediate Release:
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, 202-518-5624, cell 202-904-7614, firstname.lastname@example.org
Starlene Rankin, Media Coordinator, 916-995-3805, email@example.com
March 20 is the 7th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq
Green Party Speakers Bureau: Greens available to speak on the wars, foreign policy, and related topics: http://www.gp.org/speakers/speakers-foreign-policy.php
WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party candidates, leaders, and other members will participate in the 'US Out of Afghanistan and Iraq Now' march in Washington, DC, on Saturday, March 20.
Greens will join hundreds of thousands of others to demand an end to the wars and occupations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Haiti and threats of war against Iran. March 20 is the seventh anniversary of the invasion launched by the Bush-Cheney Administration against Iraq, in which hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died and tens of thousands of US troops have been killed or been maimed.
For more information on the march, which has been organized by the ANSWER Coalition, visit March20.org (http://www.march20.org).
Related events will take place in Washington throughout the week leading up to the March 20 march: see the Washington Peace Center's 'Iraq Anniversary Special Alert' (http://washingtonpeacecenter.org/node/2756).
The Green Party of the United States opposed the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan from the very beginning, and more recently criticized President Obama for expanding the Afghanistan War into Pakistan and for his announcement of 30,000 additional US troops to be sent to Afghanistan (http://www.gp.org/press/pr-national.php?ID=267).
Greens participated in the "Rally to tell Obama No You Can't!" on December 12, 2009, in Washington, DC in Lafayette Park near the White House, which was sponsored by the End US Wars Coalition (http://www.enduswars.org). Among the Green Party speakers at the rally were Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party's 2008 presidential nominee; Lynne Williams, 2010 Green candidate for Governor of Maine (http://www.lynnewilliams2010.org); and Marian Douglas-Ungaro of the DC Statehood Green Party.
On November 25, Ms. McKinney sent an open letter to President Obama urging a reversal of his warhawk policy on Afghanistan (http://dignity.ning.com/profiles/blogs/cynthia-mckinneys-letter-to).
Green Party leaders have disputed President Obama's claims that the invasion of Afghanistan was "the right war." The invasion has resulted in a catastrophe for Afghan civilians, with thousands killed and maimed and the destruction of property and infrastructure. The Taliban has won greater popular support because of its defiance of foreign troops, while President Karzai's corrupt administration have betrayed any hope for democracy and regional warlords have turned Afghanistan into the world's leading producer of opium. Human rights for most Afghans, especially women, have not advanced because of the US invasion.
"The expansion of the Afghanistan War with drone attacks inside Pakistani borders has created even greater regional instability and animosity towards the US," said Craig Thorsen, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States and former US Navy Lieutenant. "We're dismayed that President Obama has embraced the Bush-Cheney doctrine of 'preemption' -- the idea that the US may attack any country around the world to replace that country's government. This doctrine was expressly outlawed in the wake of World War II."
"The Democratic leadership in Congress rubberstamped the GOP war agenda. Both parties have voted to spend enormous amounts of taxpayers' money to feed a military machine that bullies other nations and ultimately sustains corporate war profiteers. The Green Party urges all Americans who desire peace to speak out with their voices and votes, join us on March 20, call on Congress to cut military spending, and demand that President Obama call our troops home now," said Mr. Thorsen.
Green Party of the United States http://www.gp.org
Green candidate database and campaign information: http://www.gp.org/elections.shtml
Green Party News Center http://www.gp.org/newscenter.shtml
Green Party Speakers Bureau http://www.gp.org/speakers
Green Party ballot access page http://www.gp.org/2008-elections
Green Party Livestream Channel http://www.livestream.com/greenpartyus
Green Party International Committee http://www.gp.org/committees/intl
What If They Revised The War And One Side Stopped Caring? That's what the right-wing is hoping for in this country and around the world. If they get to revise and aren't challenged (usually because we have so many, many other 'important' topics to cover), then they win. They rewrite history and they win. Mehdi Hasan (New Statesman) takes on England's David Aaronovitch who identifes as of the left but not all consider him to be that:
In his column in the Times on Tuesday, he ridicules those of us who opposed the war, calls the Iraqi elections a "bloody miracle" and deplores seven years of "goddamned" discussion of WMDs, legality, etc. Time to move on, says Aaro.
Let me begin by highlighting some points on which he and I agree. 1) It is both miraculous and inspiring that Iraq is able to conduct multi-party parliamentary elections seven years on from the fall of Saddam Hussein. 2) Torture was indeed much, much worse and widespread under Saddam Hussein than it is in Iraq today. 3) There has never been a proper debate about what would have had happened to Iraq had Saddam Hussein been left in power in 2003. What were the alternatives, if any?
But in Aaronovitch's column, entitled "Iraq has moved forward. It's time we did too", there is a glaring omission. How many Iraqis died in order to build this new Mesopotamian democracy, what he calls "one of the most hopeful changes in recent times"? Or, to rephrase the question, how many Iraqis were unable to vote in these historic elections because they'd been killed in the period since March 2003?
Years after the debate was seemingly settled on the folly of the Iraq War, some in the media are using the recent Iraqi parliamentary elections to excuse the invasion.
[. . .]
Estimates of Iraqi fatalities since Bush's invasion range from 100,000 to upward of 1 million. Millions of Iraqis were either forced to flee abroad or become refugees in their own country. And crimes against women escalated dramatically in the aftermath. To glibly ignore or dismiss this human wreckage is unconscionable.
"Always we defend these miserable results with the same refrain: Do you want the Taliban back? Do you want Saddam back?" writes Robert Fisk in The London Independent in a piece entitled, "Once Again, a Nation Walks Through Fire to Give the West its 'Democracy.' "
Besides, I thought that the reason for invading Iraq was to get rid of those dreaded Weapons of Mass Destruction. (Read Harper's hilarious satire on the Bush Administration's excuses for the war.) "Democracy" was never much more than an afterthought for the Bush team, used as a pretext for its misadventure after the fabled WMDs turned out to be fairy tale creations.
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
Two men on a remarkable journey high in the Himalayas investigate
threats to global water and food supply. Next on NOW
change will cause some of the world's largest glaciers to completely
melt by 2030. What effect will this have on our daily lives, especially
our water and food supply? With global warming falling low on a national
list of American concerns, it's time to take a deeper look at what could
be a global calamity in the making.
On Friday, March 12 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), David Brancaccio
and environmentalist Conrad Anker -- one of the world's leading high
altitude climbers - trek to the Gangotri Glacier in the Himalayan
Mountains, the source of the Ganges River, to witness the great melt and
its dire consequences first-hand. The two also visit Montana's Glacier
National Park to see the striking effects of global warming closer to
home and learn how melting glaciers across the world can have a direct
impact on food prices in the U.S.
Along the way, Brancaccio and Anker bathe in the River Ganges, view a
water shortage calamity in India, and see with their own eyes and
cameras the tangible costs of climate change.
"We can't take climate change and put it on the back burner," warns
Anker. "If we don't address climate change, we won't be around as
Visit http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/516/ right now to watch an extended
hour-long version of the program, and to access David's 12-day
photo-filled travel journal from their trek.
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 Charles Babington (AP), John Dickerson (CBS News and Slate) and Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times). Remember that the show podcasts in video and audio format -- and a number of people sign up for each (audio is thought to be so popular due to the fact that it downloads so much quikcer). If you podcast the show, remember there is the Web Extra where Gwen and the guests weigh in on topics viewers e-mail about. And also remember that usually by Monday afternoon you can go to the show's website and stream it there (including Web Extra) as well as read the transcripts and more. They're beefing up their online presence and that includes highlighting archived shows and Gwen's weekly column which this week addresses Eric Massa. Jeanne Cummings (Politico), Michael Duffy (Time magazine) and John Harwood (CNBC, New York Times). And along with catching the show, you can click here for Gwen's take on two of the current political scandals (text report). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with a number of women on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, Bonnie and her guests offer an extra video on a topic not covered on the show. The current web extra is a discussion of sperm donors and privacy. For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:
Inside The Collapse
60 Minutes, Sunday, March 14, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Lastly, US Senator Jeanne Shaheen can be seen in this video discussing how International Women's Day was celebrated around the world . . . but not in the US. This is part of the Democratic Policy Committee's daily videos.
the diane rehm show
the los angeles times
the times of london