Saturday, April 03, 2010

The elections

All this time after the March 7th elections, not much is certain but Kurds -- or the Kurdish politicians at least -- know who they want: Jalal Talabani. Waist Deep in a Big Fatty. AFP reports that the major Kurdish parties have put aside their revulsions at one another to back Talabani in the hopes that they can continue to hold onto the Iraqi presidency -- even if it means keeping the ineffective, backstabbing and highly unhealthy Jalal (can he even survive two more years?) in the post. The CIA-backed Goran has 'reservations' they want on the record but it doesn't matter, they backed Jalal as well.

Meanwhile voting wraps up to determine whom the bloc of Moqtada al-Sadr (the bloc has 40 seats in the new Parliament) will back. Farhad Jaff (AFP) notes the two-day vote ended today and "The referendum is widely seen as a way for the Sadrist bloc, whose 30-something leader has been in Iran for about two years, to avoid giving its backing to Maliki. The prime minister is a bitter enemy of the movement, having ordered an offensive against its armed wing the Mahdi army in 2008." Al Jazeera echoes that, "The referendum is widely seen as a way for the Sadrist bloc, whose 30-something leader has been in Iran for about two years, to avoid giving its backing to al-Maliki." Everyone does, in fact. Now. But Wednesday, Wednesday was a different story as the press came up with various 'theories':

Horse trading, et al? Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc is deciding whom to throw their support behind. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers reports that they've decided to put it to a vote and a referendum will be held Thursday and Friday where Sadr supporters will "choose one of five candidates" for prime minister and that's whom the Sadr bloc will then back and, in addition to the five -- "Nouri Al Maliki, Ayad Allawi, Vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi, former prime minister Ibrahim Al Jafary and Mohamed Jafar Al Sadr" -- there will be a blank space for a write-in. Besides putting the people back in charge, it may serve another purpose. Jason Ditz ( reports on the referendum and notes that when Nouri signed off on the Status Of Forces Agreement, he agreed to put it to referendum, "The SOFA referendum was initially to be held in July, 2009, but Maliki managed to successfully put it off by claiming it would be "cheaper" to hold it in concert with the parliamentary election, held March 7. Needless to say the referendum never happened, and at this point it is safe to say it never will." Tim Arango (New York Times) adds that al-Sadr's office released a statment stating they were deliver "choice of prime minister in to the hands of the Iraqi public through a referendum for all Iraqi people." Arango goes on to call it one-part p.r. and one-part political gimmick. Based upon? Based upon the fact that the New York Times no longer grasps what reporting is. Among the many other posibilities -- including just thinking the people should decide and having no ulterior motives -- is that Moqtada al-Sadr has a good idea how the vote will go and wants to use the voters as cover to go with that decision.

The following community sites (plus have updated since yesterday evening:

Iraq Veterans Against the War notes:

Mixed news for war resistor, Marc Hall
U.S. Army Specialist, Marc Hall, has been incarcerated for over 15 weeks for his song, "Stop-Loss" which angrily criticizes the military's Stop-Loss policy of involuntary extensions. The Army recently transferred Marc to face court martial in Kuwait, an extraordinary move that isolates him from his civilian lawyer, family, and friends.

At his pre-trial hearing last week, the judge recommended dropping five of eleven of the charges against him and expressed his judgment that Marc get a Special Court Martial. Marc's command accepted the reduction of charges, but has forwarded the six remaining charges for a more serious General Court Martial.

A Special Court Martial would have limited Marc's possible jail sentence to one year, and a Bad Conduct Discharge. The General Court Martial could possibly sentence Marc to at least six years and a Dishonorable Discharge.

In response, Marc's civilian lawyer, David Gespass, and his JAG are now beginning to prepare seriously for trial and will be filing pre-trail motions that cover witnesses, travel expenses, mental health evaluations, independent experts, and more.

We will keep you updated as Marc's case progresses. If you haven't done so already, please consider donating to Marc's legal defense fund. There are considerable expenses associated with his case, now that it has been moved to Kuwait. Any amount helps. Donate here.

Travis Bishop released from prison!
On March 25th, war resister, Travis Bishop, was released from the miltary brig at Ft. Lewis after serving 7 months and 12 days for refusing deployment to Afghanistan. He received a reduction in rank from Sergeant to Private and a pending Bad Conduct discharge. While in the brig, Travis Bishop was recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience and wrote a blog from jail.

Hundreds around the world wrote letters of support to Travis as well as letters to military authorities calling for his release. Bishop also spoke out about the bad conditions at the Fort Lewis brig, which resulted in some reforms at the facility as well as Travis being placed on the facility's "most difficult" prisoners list.

Thank you for supporting Travis and helping win his release.

IVAW members protest 7th anniversary of Iraq invasion
Here is a round-up of just a few of the many actions IVAW took around the anniversary:

Members of IVAW Madison, WI chapter spread their "Stop Treating Us Like Dirt" message at a military recruiting center. Watch the video clip here where they use mud stencils to dialogue about GI resistance with young military recruiters.

Chicago IVAW members helped organize an alternative career fair called, "De-militarized U." at Sullivan High School, where they handed out information with the goal of talking to youth about alternatives to mlitary service. Sullivan H.S. is trying to institute a JROTC program, and IVAW has been working with other organizations to stop it.

Several IVAW chapters from the northeast protested with thousands in Washington, D.C., and literally took their mesage to the streets by mud-stenciling in front of the White House, the Veterans Administration, and other locations.

Your help still needed to meet our goal of raising $45,000 by May 1
We are trying to raise the salary for a new Field Organizer by May 1st. With the help of supporters, we have raised $5,000 so far. Can you make a donation now to help us meet our goal?

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends