Thursday, April 1, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Chris Hill flat-out lied (and the press covered for him), 6 elected candidates end up banned in Iraq, the Red Cross reports on conditions in Iraq, a US study focuses on veterans and service members, the Justice Dept files charges against KBR, and more.
Tuesday, the International Committe of the Red Cross released their latest report on Iraq, entitled "Iraq: coping with violence and striving to earn a living." The report noted the continued violence so far this year, the families in Mosul who have fled as a result of violence (these were largely Iraqi Christians) and that, internally and externally, the refugee crisis continues. Potable water remains a dream for the bulk of the people with "only 45 per cent of the population, on average, hav[ing] clean drinking water and 20 per cent proper sewage disposal." The ICRC has worked on water projects in Iraq and has also assisted with the health care. Their duties also include visiting prisoners.
The ICRC notes that the decline in agriculture (which began before the start of the illegal war) continues and that drought and lack of an adequate water supply have increased the problem. In addition, the violence has led many house holds without "their main wage earner." The repeated attack on the subsidies program was always very disgusting, but in the current climate, it's especially disgusting. IRIN reports that the already slashed Iraqi food aid program is facing even more cuts. The rations program began in 1995 and has been repeatedly slashed since the start of the Iraq War at the repeated request of the US government which frowns upon aid to the poor and struggling. Attempts to outright kill the program have been repeatedly met with a strong pushback from Iraqis so the US has pushed for incremental cuts until there is little left. IRIN notes that the packages will now only offer "flour, rice, sugar, cooking oil and milk." Milk for some, of course. Milk for all was cut sometime ago. Gone are the days of tomato paste, tea, chicken, soap, beans, detergent, cheese, etc. In a population of less than 30 million (US government estimates vary between 26 million and 28 million -- of course, Nouri 'forgot' to conduct the census he was supposed to do in 2007), over eight million Iraqis are dependent upon the program to meet basic dietary needs as a result of the extreme poverty in Iraq.
Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council offered this press release:
The following Security Council press statement on the Iraq elections was read out today by Council President Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet (Gabon):
The members of the Security Council welcome the Independent High Electoral Commission of Iraq's (IHEC) 26 March announcement of the provisional results of the Iraqi parliamentary election and look forward to the certification by the Supreme Court.
The members of the Security Council congratulate the Iraqi people and Government, including the Iraqi security forces, and IHEC for holding this successful election. The members of the Security Council express their support for IHEC's work, particularly its established mechanisms to ensure all political entities can register complaints and appeals in accordance with IHEC procedures and Iraqi law. They also commend the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the role played by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, Ad Melkert, in providing technical assistance and support throughout the electoral process.
The members of the Security Council recognize the assistance provided by Iraqi domestic observers and civil society organizations and by the international community, including the European Union, Arab League, Organization of the Islamic Conference, as well as the support of United Nations Member States in providing electoral assistance and observation missions. The members of the Security Council take note of the findings of these international and independent Iraqi observers, who affirmed their confidence in the overall integrity of the election.
The members of the Security Council call for the political entities to respect the certified election results and the choices of the Iraqi people. The members of the Security Council also urge Iraq's political leaders to avoid inflammatory rhetoric and actions. The members of the Security Council look forward to the formation of the new Government in a spirit of cooperation and respect for national unity.
Having attempted to hijack the process, Nouri al-Maliki is now presenting a new face. Alsumaria TV reports he's calling for people to respect the process -- even as he continues attacking the process and the results. NPR's Deborah Amos reports (at Pakistan Observer), "The prime minister has shown he will use the tools of incumbent power. He has reportedly released long-held prisoners loyal to the Sadrist political movement. The Sadrists ran for office in a rival Shia bloc and Maliki will need their support to challenge Allawi's victory. In addition, the McClatchy newspapers report that at least four Sunni Muslim candidates on Allawi's ticket are under investigation by the prime minister's security forces. This is hardball politics, Iraqi style." Deborah Amos is the author of the just released Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East. Monday, April 5th, Amos appears on The Exchange with Laura Knoy, New Hampshire Public Radio which first broadcasts at 9 a.m. EST. Meanwhile, The Hindu's editorial board explains of the post-announced-results period:
The initial problems have to do with the conduct of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose first response to the result was to demand a recount. A day before the results were announced, he persuaded Iraq's Supreme Court to rule that the government would be formed by the leader of the bloc that has the largest number when parliament convenes, which will probably be in June. In a manoeuvre that smacked of electoral fraud, officials of the Accountability and Justice Commission, who are involved in removing former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from public posts, banned six candidates, including three from Mr. Allawi's party, on the eve of the March 7 election. Iraqiya will appeal the bans in the courts.
They join the Los Angeles Times' editorial board in using their voice to call out abuses that threaten the entire process. It's a small chorus, but hopefully a growing one. Again, Iraqis are watching, they are paying attention to what the foreign press does and does not call out and silences will send a message.
At OpEd News, Hamma Mirwaisi examines some of the Iraqi players rushing to and from Iran for various reasons:
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is in Iran for Nowruz celebrations. He wants very badly to be President of Iraq for another term. He runs to his master the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for help. He is helping PM al-Maliki indirectly. He is very close friend of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad they do share a secret. The Kurds are speculating that President Talabani helped President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with the plan to kill Dr. Abdul-Rahman Ghassemlou the leader of the Iranian Kurd in 1989 in Vienna.
What other secrets are there between both Presidents? What kind of secrets are they sharing to be so close to one another? May be the CIA knows the answer better. The US forces arrested one of the killers of Dr. Abdul-Rahman Ghassemlou in Arbil-Iraq and then they released him after integrations for long time without extraditing him to Austria to face justice.
President Jalal Talabani for sure is sharing many secret with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad they are old friends from during the Iran-Iraq war. Just likewise he was sharing many secrets with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for many years before the war. President Jalal Talabani is the survivor. He is kind of master spy, one can make many movies about his work; he is dealing with so many intelligent services around the world in the same time without getting implicated.
Meanwhile Rod Nordland (New York Times) adds, "The ink was hardly dry on the polling results when three of the four major political alliances rushed delegations off to Tehran. Yet none of them sent anyone to the United States Embassy here let alone to Washington." Mohammed Tawfeeq, Yousif Bassil and Mohammed Jamjoom (CNN) report on Moqtada al-Sadr's tossing the issue to the people in a referendum now scheduled for tomorrow and Saturday and notes that Ayad Allawi has expressed concerns that Iran is interfering with the post-election events. We'll also highlight this from their report, on the Justice and Accountability Commission's attempt to ban members of Allawi's slate after the election (and after Allawi's slate was ruled the winner):
The U.N. special representative in Iraq, Ad Melkert, said the United Nations in February declared that the accountability panel is "perfectly legitimate" and "it is the Iraqi choice to draw a line under the responsibility of the people under the Saddam regime."
He added, "There many parallels in the other countries in the past as well, but the process has had some flaws and we were concerned by that. We have expressed those concerns" but in the end the Iraqis must make the ultimate decision.
Chris Hill lied. We said so in the March 30th snapshot:
If not, it's probably because you're thinking of the actions of the Justice and Accountability Commission (and for those who keep e-mailing about that commission, that is it's English translation -- for some reason some press outlets want to go alphabetical, it's Justice and Accountability). Reuters' Susan Cornwell immediately raised that issue.
Chris Hill: Well, let me just say that certainly political commentators here in Iraq sort of look at a challenge like that and wonder to what extent it reflects a political challenge. Certainly, I think the UN has made very clear that this is no time to be challenging people who have won seats. But I think the UN has also made very clear that the proper place for any such challenges is to the courts. If they want to sue the IHEC, they can do that and let the courts take this up. I think going forward, certainly for the next election, certainly for the next period of Iraq's history, they're going to have to deal with this whole issue about accountability and justice. They're going to have to deal with the issue of what to do with people who have ties to the Baathist regime in the past, how they're going to deal with this, whether a South African model or some other model. But certainly, what we want to see in the future is something that is transparent and something that does not appear to many people to have politics written all over it.
Oops, the manic half of his manic-depression appears to be fading. Like a Joyce Carol Oates character, he's going lethargic leading all to wonder, "What is he saying? What does he mean?" (Nod to JCO's "Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?")
Chris Hill appears to be saying that without UN approval no candidates will be banned. And that if an Iraqi official doesn't like that, he can take the UN to court. That's what he appears to be saying.
But I've been on the phone with two friends at the UN and they say that's news to them. Not only is that news to them, Hill establishes that as 'reality' one minute and then appears to forget what he just said.
That and more appeared in the March 30th snapshot. You need to ask why news outlets didn't feel the need to include in their reports -- and everyone filed within 24 hours on Hill's press conference -- that Hill was lying or at least that the UN denied it. (Two asked me while I was in the midst of calling friends at the UN if it was true and I said I had one saying it wasn't but I was calling another. That should have prompted them to call their sources.) Chris Hill lied. He flat out lied. And it's an indictment of the US press that they refused to tell you that this week. Even now, they avoid telling you it. The press appears to think it's worse to have an embarrassment like Hill as an ambassador but many would argue it's worse to have a press that refuses to tell you that.
Al Jazeera reports that "six winning candidates" from Ayad Allawi's slate have been banned by the Justice and Accountability Committee led by Ahmed Chalabi and his boy-pal Ali al-Lami. Adam Roston (The Nation) explains that Ahmed's found a way to increase his power in Iraq while waiting on the sidelines:
After all the damage done by Chalabi, who has virtually no constituency in Iraq, why does he have any influence at all? True, there is his sheer skill as a political fixer and influence peddler. He continues to wield power as chairman of the Accountability and Justice Commission (the new name for his old De-Baathification committee, set up soon after the US invasion). And as American officials have acknowledged, he has close ties with Iran and its Revolutionary Guard.
But according to several Iraqi businessmen and American officials, another key to Chalabi's resurgent influence -- one that has received far less attention from the news media--is his connection to Iraq's banking sector. The man whose organization, the Iraqi National Congress, received tens of millions of US taxpayers dollars in the run up to the Iraq war--and who was convicted in a massive bank fraud case in Jordan -- is believed to have immense influence over banking in Iraq today.
Legal challenges by Maliki's party (alleging voter fraud — charges raised only after Maliki slipped out of first place) remain. At least five of Allawi's winning candidates still face the possibility of losing their appeals after disqualification by the election screening committee (led by pre-war Pentagon favorite Ahmad Chalabi). The Kurdish coalition will try to play kingmakers. Phyllis Bennis (IPS) uses the elections as a jumping off point:
Regardless of the final legality, there's no question that months of political jockeying -- with the potential for significant election-driven and sectarian violence rising -- lie ahead. Iraq's election was held, once again, under the military occupation of 98,000 U.S. troops and more than 100,000 U.S.-paid contractors. Obama is committed, by his own promises and the U.S.-Iraq security agreement signed by Bush, to the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops by the end of this July, and to complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of 2011.
Whether Obama plans to use the inevitable election instability as an excuse to postpone those troop withdrawals -- either by re-missioning combat troops by re-naming them "trainers" or "logisticians," or by simply renegotiating the U.S.-Iraq agreement to extend the December 31, 2011 withdrawal deadline, depends on how much political pressure can be brought to bear on the administration. Pressure to demand a much faster withdrawal just might help ensure that at least the existing deadlines -- already far too lengthy -- are rigidly respected.
Eric Ruder (US Socialist Worker) speaks with Michael Schwartz who offers the following possiblities re: Nouri's statements currently:
On the other hand, his rhetoric may reflect behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the United States. This could be the first -- or really a continuing -- effort to justify continued U.S. military intervention, beyond the December 2011 deadline, when all the U.S. troops are supposed to be out.
We know that the leadership in the Obama regime is not interested in removing all the U.S. troops. They want to have about 50,000 troops there, which was the original goal from before the war. They want to have five enduring bases, which are already built and functioning with no sign of decline. They want to have 2,000 diplomats inside Iraq, housed in the billion-dollar embassy located in the Green Zone, running the headquarters of the American Empire in the Middle East. And so maybe this is going to be the occasion when the promise to fully withdraw is officially reversed.
All along, when the question was put to American military commanders about whether U.S. troops in Iraq were more needed in Afghanistan, the answer was, "No, they can't leave yet. We have to wait until we see that the election aftermath doesn't create a new crisis."
To me, the subtext to that was that the election might produce a result that was going to be unacceptable to the U.S., and they might need the military to reverse the result. So it may be that when we hear Maliki say, "I'm going to have to declare martial law," and "Allawi is so unruly," and "He can't control his people," and "The Sunnis are going to start fighting again," it may be the expression of Obama administration anxiety about the negative result they had always feared.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two people, a Baghdad stun bombing created chaos among shoppers and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baghdad roadside bomging wounded one person (both today and yesterday's roadside bombings appear to have targeted alcohol vendors in Baghdad). Reuters notes that a US helicopter fired a missle in Basir at two suspects killing both while a Mosul roadside bombing wounded one person and a Baghdad sticky bombing wounded three people.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that 1 man was shot dead in Baghdad and that the Ministry of Health's Director General Muhammed Chillab was shot dead yesterday outside his Baghdad home.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that the corpse of 1 woman and the corpse of her daughter were discovered in Baghdad.
"Many men and women return from the war zone successfully and adjust to their lives out of theater, but others have had difficulty in readjusting or transitioning to family life, to their jobs, and to living in their communities after deployment." That statement appears on page one of the 192 page report issued yesterday by the Committee on the Initial Assessment of Readjustment Needs of Military Personnel, Veterans, and Their Families; Board on the Health of Selected Populations; Institute Of Medicine. The report is entitled Returning Home from Iraq and Afghanistan: Preliminary Assessment of Readjustment Needs of Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families. The Institute Of Medicine defined the task as (a) "identify preliminary findings regarding the physical and mental health and other readjustments needs for members and former members of the armed forces who were deployed to OEF or OIF and their families as a result of such deployment" and (b) "determine how it would approach [. . .] a comprehensive assessment of the physical, mental, social and economic effects and to identify gaps in care for members and former member of the armed forces who were deployed" in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Among other things, IOM found many programs had been created to help the veterans of both wars; however, little evaluation of the programs had been done. The report states that little attention has been paid to either the costs or helath condition needs in long-term care for TBI. In addition, it notes that there "is the critical shortage of health-care professionals -- especially those specializing in mental health -- to meet the demands of those returning from theater in Iraq and Afghanistan and their family members."
The report refers to all levels of care. Last week, US House Rep Michael Michaud chaired a hearing of the House Veterans Subcommittee on Health and US House Rep Gabrielle Giffords spoke of the bills she is sponsoring HR 2698 and 2699 -- both of which are concerned with treatment for PTSD. The first would provide a scholarship to train VA workers and allow veterans to access PTSD health care at the VAs even if -- especially if -- the PTSD is newly emerging/manifesting. The first bill would put more and better trained workers in the VA and allow the veterans greater access to treatment. The second bill would create pilot pograms that would provide treatment but also track feedback from the veterans and their families in order to devise better treatments. The bills she is sponsoring are both in keeping with the recommendations of the 192-page report. HR 2698 currently has 48 co-sponsors including the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Bob Filner. At least 13 of the co-sponsors are Republicans; however, the Committee's Ranking Member, Steve Buyer, has not signed on as a co-sponsor.
The report notes a barrier to receiving help: "Stigma, real or imagined, is perceived by military personnel who are (or are considering) seeking care for mental health or substance-abuse problems. And active-duty military and veterans fear that vistis to a mental health provider will jeopardize their careers because of the military's long-standing and understandable policy of reporting mental health and substance-abuse problems to the chain of command."
They will argue that they recommended "a review" of confidentiality policies. Yes, they did. And I will turn around and argue that Deborah Mullen (wife of Joint Chief of Staff Mike Mullen) made stronger remarks on this topic (stigmas as barriers to treatment) in her speech at the DoD-VA Suicide Prevention Conference in DC last January.
As you read through the report, it becomes obvious that there are few solutions offered, just calls for more study. If you doubt that, check out the section on "Identify policy remedies" which reads:
Implicit in much of what the committee has found and has written is that dealing with the population-level consequences of OEF and OIF will require policy changes. The scope of the potential policy rememdies will be targeted at preventing, minimizing, or addressing the impacts, gaps, and needs identified during the committee's work. It is anticipated that this work will generate specific recommendations that may require statutory changes to implement.
They may feel they have met their mission's mandate but what it reads like is "there are problems, we recommend further study." In other words, kick the can. Or maybe hot potato. Though weak on solutions, the study does provide interesting raw data such as the fact that 1.9 million members of the service have been deployed to either Afghanistan or Iraq for over 30 days since 2001. That these 1.9 million have been deployed "in 3 million tours of duty". 7,944 women served in Vietnam while "over 200,000 women" have served and are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan (accounting for 11% of the personnel). Non-reserve personnel? Nearly half the officers "are over 35 years old" compared to the reserve officers figure of 73.6% "are over 35 years old." Well over half the reserve, non-officer members are 30 or less while in the non-reserve category, 85% are under the age of 35 with the greatest number being between the ages of 20 and 24. That group makes up 43.9% of the Army (non-officers, remember), 45.9% of the Navy, 39.1% of the Air Force and 65.6% of the Marine Corps. For the non-officers in the reserves, there is no one age group that consistently tracks across the branches. In the Army national Guard, the largest portion (30%) are between the ages of 20 and 24 and that is true also for the Army Reserve (32.1%) and the Marine Corps Reserve (58.1%); however, for the Navy Reserve, most members (24.3%) are between the ages of 35 and 39 (with the second highest being the ages 40 to 44), ages 40 to 44 make up the largest percent of the Air Force Reserve (18.4%). That's all the reserve branches except for the Air National Guard and their highest percentage is 16.6% which is the percentage of their deployed members ages 20 to 24 but it is also the percentage of their deployed members age 35 to 39.
With no distinction made between officers and non-officers, service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have been "66% [. . .] white, 16% black, 10% Hispanic, 4% Asian, and 4% other race." That's reserve and non-reserve. Of the non-reserve, 55.2% are married and that number is 49% for the reserves. Children? 43% non-reserves are a parent and reserves? They aren't tracked. Which appears to echo the RAND Corporation critieria for their recent study which Anita Chandra discussed with Congress last month. Reserves and non-reserves (the report calls it "active component" but I've heard too many reserves note that they are active and have been active month after month) share one thing in common, for both over 60% of the Navy branches have been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan. For non-reserves, that is the highest of any branch. For the reserves, the Air Force Reserve has deployed even more with over 80% of their members have been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan. [See Figure 2.5 and 2.6 of the report for more on that breakdown.] The report notes:
The rate of domestic violence is higher in military couples than in civilian couples. Marshall et al. (2005) reported that wives of Army servicemen reported significantly higher rates of husband-to-wife violence than demographically matched civilian wives. Although it has bee nreported that spousal abuse has declined over the last few years, domestic violence still affects 20% of military couples in which the service member has been deployed for at least 6 months (Booth et al., 2007).
On the topic of families:
The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a toll on the children of US troops deployed there. Children of US troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan reportedly sought outpatient mental health services 2 million times in 2008 (Andrews et al, 2008). Impatient visits by military children have increased by 50% since 2003. Additionally, an increase in the rate of child maltreatment has been reported since the start of the conflict. Rentz et al (2007) conducted a time-series analysis from 2000 to 2003 to investigate the effect of deployment on the occurrence of child maltreatment in military and nonmilitary families. They reported a statisically significant two-fold increase in substantial maltreatment in military families in the 1-year period after Septemeber 11, 2001, compared with the period before then. A recent study of over 1,700 military families (Gibbs et al, 2007) found that the overall rate of child maltreatment, especially child neglect, was higher when the soldier-parents were deployed than when theyw ere not deployed. Because of the demographics of those who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan (older service members who are married and have children), the number of children who have been affected by these conflicts is clearly larger than in past conflicts.
Julie Sullivan (Oregonian) examines the report with a focus on Oregon service members, "Nearly 51 percent of the returning soldiers told commanders they have no job waiting. More than 170 have no permanent address. And, an exhaustive new national report finds that the most challenging transition for their families will come after they arrive." Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) boils the report down to the VA "has no way of determining long-range health care costs for the veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan".
Monday's snapshot covered the Commission on Wartime Conracting in Iraq and Afghanistan in DC which heard about abuses and problems to do with KBR and also heard from KBR. Kat covered the hearing in "Commission on Wartime Contracting," Ava covered it at Trina's site with "Fraud and waste" and Wally covered it at Rebecca's site with "The arrogance and waste of KBR." The Commission's attention isn't the only negative attention KBR is receiving this week. The US Justice Dept issued the following today:
WASHINGTON -- The United States has filed a lawsuit against Kellogg Brown & Root Services (KBR) alleging that the defense contractor violated the False Claims Act, the Justice Department announced today. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, alleges that KBR knowingly included impermissible costs for private armed security in billings to the Army under the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) III contract. The LOGCAP III contract provides for civilian contractor logistical support, such as food services, transportation, laundry and mail, for military operations in Iraq.
The government's lawsuit alleges that some 33 KBR subcontractors, as well as the company itself, used private armed security at various times during the 2003-2006 time period. KBR allegedly violated the LOGCAP III contract by failing to obtain Army authorization for arming subcontractors and by allowing the use of private security contractors who were not registered with the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. The subcontractors using private security are alleged to have also violated subcontract terms requiring travel only in military convoys. The government's lawsuit further alleges that at the time, KBR managers considered the use of private security unacceptable and were concerned that the Army would disallow any costs for such services. KBR nonetheless charged the United States for the costs of the unauthorized services.
"Defense contractors cannot ignore their contractual obligations to the military and pass along improper charges to the United States," said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. "We are committed to ensuring that the Department of Defense's rules are enforced and that funds so vital to the war effort are not misused."
This case is being brought as part of a National Procurement Fraud Initiative. In October 2006, the Deputy Attorney General announced the formation of a National Procurement Fraud Task Force designed to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in government contracting activity for national security and other government programs. The Procurement Fraud Task Force is chaired by the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division and includes the Civil Division, U.S. Attorneys' Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Inspectors General community, and a number of other federal law enforcement agencies.
Along with the Justice Department's Civil Division, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Army Criminal Investigation Division and FBI participated in the investigation of this matter. This case, as well as others brought by members of the task force, demonstrates the Department of Justice's commitment to helping ensure the integrity of the government procurement process.
NOW on PBS begins airing on most PBS stations Friday night (check local listings) and this week's program:
The number of inmates in American prisons is outpacing the system's ability to hold them all. In one startling example, California prisons hold well over 50,000 more inmates than they're designed for, even though the state has built a dozen new prisons in the last 15 years. One of the biggest reasons is rampant recidivism.
On Friday, April 2 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW goes inside an Illinois prison that may have the answer to California's problems. With its innovative plan to keep released inmates from coming back, the Sheridan Correctional Center is trying to redefine "tough on crime" by being the largest fully dedicated drug prison in the country. The approach involves aggressive counseling, job training, and following the convicts after they get out. Can their novel approach keep convicts out of jail for good?
And we'll close with this from Tom Over (OpEd News) report on the activities of World Can't Wait and speaks with Debra Sweet, national director of World Can't Wait:
Sweet said that during the Bush presidency, protests against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had a lot more people participating.
"A Presidential candidate and then a president was brought forward who represented on the surface something very different. This was change we were supposed to believe in and huge numbers of people, including anti-war leaders, put all their energy into electing Obama, regardless of the fact that he was promising to expand the war in Afghanistan," Sweet said.
Perhaps interestingly, as Sweet and I spoke, Public Enemy's "Don't Believe The Hype" played on the PA system.
Also interesting was that Sweet uttered a combination of words-- 'hoodwinked and bamboozled ' -- Malcolm X used to famous effect, which was made more famous by way of Spike Lee's film about the civil rights leader.
"A lot of people have been hoodwinked and bamboozled. Many of us weren't, but we need to be all that much more visible and protesting now, because even more than ever, we need a movement that says 'no' to this whole package of continuing the Bush direction," Sweet said.