Tuesday, April 13, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Robert Gates lashes out at WikiLeaks, Nouri lashes out at Iraq's neighbors, Chris Hill needs a math tutor, here comes that wave of revisionary history, and more.
Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of an assault in Iraq. At The Nation today, Robert Dreyfuss weighs in and apparently, by his judgment, the worst offender in the assault is . . . Washington Post reporter David Finkel. For unknown reasons, he steers to PolitFact which quotes from Finkel but doesn't note where the conversation took place. Dreyfuss characterizes Finekl's comments as "blase defense of the slaughter" and states he "cavelierly dismisses the deaths of a dozen Iraqis as something that happens in the 'real-time blurriness of those moments'." First off, the online chat took place at the Washington Post April 6th. Second of all, comments by participants are left out in PolitFact's version. Third of all, Dreyfuss, where were you?
It's a little late to be wading in, isn't it? April 6th is when the online chat took place and we ignored it because we had an audio link to note instead: "Today, Neal Conan spoke to the Washington Post's David Finkel (who's written about the incident in The Good Soldiers and link has an exerpt of the book) on NPR's Talk of the Nation." If you read the chat in full or listen to Talk of the Nation, you find (as noted in that day's snapshot), "Finkel did not weigh in on responsibility and noted specifically that he was not villifying anyone or justifying anyone. He repeated this point more than once." That also comes through in the full online chat. Possibly if PolitFact had linked to it or noted where it took place, Dreyfuss would be less focused on Finkel? Maybe not. A right-wing talking point -- one Diane Rehm shamefully refused to counter and let stand as "the last word" -- is that the Reuters reporters killed in the assault -- Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh -- were with the 'terrorists' or "embedded" with them or some other nonsense. Again, on NPR, Diane Rehm allowed that false charge to stand. Maybe Dreyfuss can take on Diane Rehm?
During the online chat, this talking point was repeated constantly and Finkel repeatedly refuted it. One example:
Washington DC: I don't think anyone has done anything wrong here. I think Reuters had every right to embed their reporters with an enemy unit.
Do you think that Reuters should have let the US know specifically which insurgent group it had reportes with? Should US forces have withheld shooting at enemy units known to be accompanied by hostile reporters?
David Finkel: There's an assumption here I'm concerned about -- that Reuters embedded its staff with "an enemy unit." I know of no basis for that. What I was told that day, and subsequently, is that the two heard of something going on and went to check it out. That's just journalists being journalists.
Before the video was secretly leaked, a request by Reuters for it to be released was unfulfilled for two and a half years. Now the military is refusing to investigate the matter to determine whether or not any wrongdoing did occur in either the event or its aftermath.
Twelve innocent civilians died because of bullets that came out of guns fired by members of the U.S. Military. The soldiers acted with a casualness that is shocking to someone who does not regularly see images of war. They refer to the victims as "dead bastards." Clearly, effective soldiers cannot mourn the lives of those they kill in the midst of battle. Still, these "dead bastards" were posing no immediate threat.
Those soldiers represent me. They represent most of you.
We sent them to war.
It is on our behalf that they killed those 12 people.
It is on our behalf that 4,386 U.S. service members and 244 U.S. contractors have died.
Really terrible things happen in war, like a soldier shooting and killing a journalist because he mistook a camera for a rocket-propelled grenade. What is unfortunate to me is that our military was unwilling to admit to you, me and the families of the fallen how they died.
You couldn't wait for answers
You just had to try those wings
And all your happy-ever-afters . . .
They didn't mean a thing
So I'm not gonna try at all
To keep you from the flame
Just remember not to call . . . my name . . .
When you cry wolf
Once too often
You cry wolf
No, I won't come knockin'
You cry wolf
I won't hear you anymore
-- "Cry Wolf," written by Jude Johnstone, recorded by Stevie Nicks on her album The Other Side of the Mirror
Walter Rodgers (Christian Science Monitor) is puzzled that "a major architect of the wra in Iraq," Douglas Feith, would argue that Washington (the administration) was tricked. Hmm. That is a shocker, isn't it? And no one could have seen that coming . . . if they were comatose. Matt Damon is a bad actor with buch teeth, no neck and some of the worst skin (it takes a lot of foundation to get him 'camera ready'). But damned if a number of idiots on the left didn't treat him as if he were The Widow Zinn and rush to prop up his offensive and appalling movie Green Zone. A number of idiots did. The whole left didn't. Ava and I pointed out last month of that bad, bad movie:
The argument the (fictional) film makes is that an Iraqi exile General Al-Rawi is the bad guy and the reason for the illegal war. He is the cause of the Iraq War because he tricked people in DC. Do you get how offensive to history that is?
Karl Rove may dispute "Bush lied and people died" (as he did last week on NPR's Fresh Air) but that's reality. (See Ann's post for how Terry Gross avoided one of the best known examples of Bush lying.) And it's really distressing to see some lefties rush to applaud this film. D-cup celeb Michael Moore gushes but he's not a man known for taste or intellect. Others are supposed to be a little smarter -- including a critic we'll be kind and not name but who sees the film as having a "message" that neocons were responsible. Did he miss the scene where General Al-Rawi brags to Matt Damon's character about tricking Washington?
At the Socialist Worker, Richard Seymour also caught on to the revisionary bulls**t in Green Zone and called it out ("Here neocon trickery took the US to war while the occupation failed due to bad planning, ideological zealotry, and an over-emphasis on democracy."). Excuse me, Seymour did that at Great Britain's Socialist Worker. At the US Socialist Worker, they were too busy eating Matt Damon's ass out and let's just hope it was as good for them as it was for Matt.
The Widow Zinn made a bad, bad movie that trafficked in revisionary history. And too many idiots on the left applauded that crap. Feith's now doing a variation on it? Not a damn surprise. The left set itself up for this when they decided that some punk ass actor who never did a damn thing for anyone was more important than the truth about the Iraq War. Actions have consequences and some people on the left better start grasping that and damn well better start owning their actions. They are encouraging revisionary history and there is no excuse for it. Some of the same idiots applauded the 'documentary' -- which I disclosed in real time I campaigned against and voted against and loved it when it didn't win Best Documentary -- which argued the problem with the Iraq War -- THE PROBLEM -- was that there wasn't better planning. People were applauding that s**t even though the 'film maker' was a War Hawk who not only advocated strongly for the Iraq War before it started but still advocated for it while promoting that piece of filth film. Maybe film criticism is just beyond the abilities of, for example, the US Socialist Worker? Maybe those idiots who don't know a damn thing but somehow seem to repeatedly endorse Iraq films that contain revisionary 'lessons' should do the world a favor and find another way to ply their bad writing? I'm not in the mood. Or as Stevie sings in "Cry Wolf:"
You can try but you can't get me . . .
Into the fire
'Cause I'm all out of sympathy . . .
And, baby, I can't walk this wire
While the US refuses to open an investigation into the July 12, 2007 assault in the wake of world condemnation, Iran calls for a different investigation. Xiong Tong (Xinhua) reports Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, called yesterday for "a UN probe into the presecne of Western powers in Afghanistan and Iraq." Alusmaria TV adds, "In a letter to the UN Secretary General, the Iranian President said that the manners used by the USA and NATO troops in dealing with terrorism in the region were doomed to fail. Ahmadinejad called the UN Secretary General to launch an investigation the results of which shall be submitted to the UN General Assembly. As a consequence of the western presence in Iraq and Afghanistan millions of people were killed, wounded or became homeless to that the cultivation of poppy plants, from which opium is extracted, increased. To that, people in these regions are still living under threats, Iranian President added."
Iran? From yesterday's Pacifica Evening News (airs on KPFA and KPFK each weekday -- as well as other stations).
John Hamilton: Iraq's prime minister accused neighboring states today of meddling in his country's internal affairs in efforts to influence government building after March 7th elections produced no clear winner. Nouri al-Maliki told a government committee meeting he was upset to hear representatives of neighboring states talking on television as if they were Iraq's "guardians." "Our message is clear, do not interfere in our affairs," al-Maliki said. He didn't specify which of Iraq's six neighbors he was referring to. The March election left al-Maliki's State of Law Commision trailing former prime minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqyia by two seats. Neither side won enough to govern alone and has been scrambling to cobble together a coalition. Both coalitions, as well as other parties, have been rallying neighboring countries for support. al-Maliki has led a government dominated by devout Shi'ites for the past four years while Allawi, a secular Shi'ite, drew most of his support from the country's Sunni minority on a campaign pledge that he was looking to transcend ethnic and sectarian divides. Both coalitons as well as other political parties have been holding talks with neighbors in the wake of balloting. Tehran's ambassador in Baghdad said Saturday that all political blocs, including Sunnis, should play a role in the new Iraqi government. The statement was unusual for a representative of Iran which traditionally backs fellow Shi'ites in Iraq. al-Maliki has tried to dispel fears that Sunnis would be neglected by a Shi'ite led government. He spoke today at a meeting of the Committee for National Reconciliation with former Sunni fighters known as Sons Of Iraq who sided with American forces against al Qaeda. al-Maliki's charges of foreign interference come a day after his political party called for a recount of election results in five of Iraq's provinces, saying that thousands of votes were tainted by fraud.
More than one month passed since Iraqi parliamentary election had been conducted. Yet, no final results had been certified and no government was formed. The discussions about forming new alliances are still ongoing. The security situation is getting worse. In less than one week, more than 100 were killed and other hundreds were wounded in three separated attacks. Services in general became so bad. During the election day, we had electricity for the whole day and night. Now, we have it only for five or seven hours a day.
Our politicians are still talking about negotiations and discussions while the people who voted for them die everyday. One of the abnormal issues is the trips to the neighboring countries Many Iraqi politicians and officials visited Iran and Saudi Arab and more will do other visits to other neighboring countries during the coming days. Iraqis know the nature of these visits as they realize the role of these countries in stability of Iraq.
Over the weekend, Allawi appeared on Frost Over The World (Al Jazeera) where, among other topics, Frost wondered how Iraq moves forward?
David Frost: What are the key compromises that have to be made by somebody?
Ayad Allawi: I think the compromises really should start with the negotiations. What we need to see is that there is a success for the political process, there's a victory for the democracy as much as we can. I think we ought to look at what we can do to Iraq. We need to address the issue of security and this should be in capable hands. We need to restructure our security forces. I think everybody now acknowledges this fact -- that the security, the current security of the institutions are not ready to face the -- the threats that are facing us in Iraq. And it needs to be more active -- more structured to be able to face much more of the responsibility. I believe that there would be compromises along the line of security and on the formation and on the major positions in the country. We are trying now to find other substitutes where people can be and should be involved because we are still as we see it, all of us, we are still transitioning. And definitely this year is going to be a forecast for the transition of getting the American forces starting the drawdown and getting the Iraq forces to replace the American forces and securing this country. So everybody, I think, is ready for compromises, David.
Everybody? Including Nouri?
Normally Monday's snapshot notes Inside Iraq but yesterday there were too many problems (which is why the snapshot went up so late yesterday). On the most recent Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera), which began airing Friday, US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill was the guest.
Jasim Azawi: But the results of those elections are in jeopardy. Right now we just said that probably Ayad Allawi will not be called upon. There is -- I don't know what you'd call it. Call it conspiracy, call it an allegiance of forces, to cheat him out of his winning. So -- And that is going to throw the country into a dangerous zone. So I don't understand why would you be optimistic.
Chris Hill: Well, first of all, what those elections did was to establish which coalitions had which seats in the -- the Parliament, the Council of Representatives. So Ayad Allawi's coalition had 91 but you realize he needs another 64 seats if he's going to acheive a majority there. He needs to get to 163 and he only has 91 so he has 91, Maliki has 89, Maliki needs another 65. So the real question will be who's able to form a government, who's able to reach out to other coalitions. So -- uh -- Allawi can start with 91, but he's got a long way to go.
Actually, the real question is who the hell taught Chris Hill math. He is correct that 163 is the magic number. He's incorrect that 91 plus 64 reaches 163 (that would be 155) and he's incorrect that 89 plus 65 equal 163 (that would be 154). Who picked this lousy man to be the US Ambassador to Iraq? He can't even add simple figures. He's so stupid he can't even grasp that. If you think that's too harsh, grasp that whatever figure he thought he was adding to, Allawi has 91 seats and al-Maliki 89. He's saying to reach X (the same number for both men), Allawi needs 64 and al-Maliki need 65. If Nouri got 2 seats less than Allawi, it doesn't take a genius to realize that he would need 2 seats more than Allawi would need to reach magic number X -- whatever X is. (And, yes, 163 is the magic number.) Back to the program.
Jasim Azawi: And right now probably he is horse trading with other parties to come into a coalition and to form that government.
Chris Hill: Horse trading and everything else. I tell you, there's going to be a lot of cups of tea, a lot of cigarettes smoked by the time that process gets done.
Jasim Azawi: But one thing he did not do the others did and that is go to Tehran. It is ironic that Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq as well as the representative from al-Maliki's coalitions State of Law, a represenative from Iraqi National Alliance headed by Amar al-Hakim and a few other junior members they went to Tehran and most probably they were summoned by the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Quds Force to come and listen and get the orders from Tehran to form the government. You, the US, you no longer call the shots.
Chris Hill chuckled at that and then deflected the question about US influence. To his credit, he did get the name of the Justice and Accountability Committee correct. That's more than many news outlets can manage. (Western outlets tend to call it the "Accountability and Justice Committee.") And the plan is to note more of it today, however, there's an update to a point Jasim was making, Andrew England (Financial Times of London) reports that Allawi's slate has plans to meet with leaders in Iran on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, as Jasim noted, the US has less and less influence (at least out in the open) and Joao Silva (New York Times) contributes a photo essay of a Najaf protest where US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were burned in effigy and, prior to that, where they were hanged.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a Ramadi roadside bombing which injured three police officers, a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded two people, a Mahmudiya sticky bombing claimed the life of a Lt Col in the police and left five people wounded, a Basra roadside bombing claimed 2 lives, a Baghdad roadside bombing targeting a liquor store and a Baghdad bombing attack on Al-Rasheed TV's public relations officer -- he and five more people were wounded.
Reuters notes 1 suspect was shot dead in Mosul by the Iraq forces and another injured
Iraqi refugees make up the largest refugee crisis in the world. In that population is a large number of LGBT members because Nouri's government has allowed them to be persecuted. Though we can all shake our heads, roll our eyes and mutter "Iraq," the reality is things aren't so good around the world. From Paul Canning's "Damning report says practically all UK LGBT asylum claims are being refused; Border Agency "cruel and discriminatory":"
According to the UK's lesbian and gay asylum and immigration charity the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) the British government is refusing 98-99% of claims made by LGBT compared to 73% for claims made on other grounds.
The astonishing figure is the result of work revealed in a new report 'Failing the grade' released by UKLGIG 8 April. It is based on a review of 50 Home Office Reason for Refusal letters (refusal letters) issued from 2005 to 2009 to claimants from 19 different countries who claimed asylum on the basis of their sexual identity. The report does not purport to be a definitive piece of research but rather a study that indicates trends emerging from the Home Office's consideration of LGBT asylum claims.
Asylum applicants reviewed were from Belarus, Cameroon, Dominica, Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Iran, Jamaica, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
The UK-based leader of Iraqi LGBT, Ali Hili, told LGBT Asylum News that every Iraqi gay asylum seeker in the UK his group was aware of had been first refused asylum, including cases in the past two years (that is, since the situation for gays in Iraq, which includes militias systematically hunting them down and killing them, became widely publicised).
In 2008 the Scottish activist Robert McDowell asked the Home Office in a Freedom Of Information request how many LGBT asylum claims had been made the previous year. He was told that information wasn't collected and it would be too expensive to retrieve.
The definitive numbers are not known but evidence from overseas shows that LGBT asylum claims form a tiny component of overall numbers - even in countries understood to have 'liberal' policies.
Turning to the US and the subject of the Supreme Court, Francis A. Boyle is a law professor and expert in the field of international relations and rights. At the Institute for Public Acuracy, he shares his thoughts on the woman many say will be Barack's nominee for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan:
"As dean of the Harvard Law School, Kagan hired Bush's outgoing director of the Office
of Legal Counsel, Jack Goldsmith, as a law professor. Goldsmith is
regarded by myself and many others in the field as a war criminal. He
wrote some of the memos that attempted to make violations of the Geneva
Conventions appear legal. Kagan actually bragged about 'how proud' she
was to have hired Goldsmith after one of his criminal Department of
Justice memoranda was written up in the Washington Post.
"During the course of her Senate confirmation hearings as Solicitor
General, Kagan explicitly endorsed the Bush administration's bogus
category of 'enemy combatant,' whose implementation has been a war crime
in its own right. Now in her current job as U.S. Solicitor General,
Kagan is quarterbacking the continuation of the Bush administration's
illegal and unconstitutional positions in U.S. federal court litigation
around the country, including in the U.S. Supreme Court. For example,
early this month, the Obama administration lost an illegal wiretapping
case. One of the lawyers in the case who won, Jon Eisenberg, said the
Obama administration is as bad or worse than the Bush administration
when it comes to issues like state secrets and wiretapping.
"Kagan is apparently being backed by several people who are indebted
to her from her time at Harvard. [Professors Laurence] Tribe, [Charles]
Ogletree and [Alan] Dershowitz all had plagiarism scandals while Kagan
headed up the law school -- and she in effect bailed them all out. Tribe
and Ogletree were teachers/mentors to Obama and still advise him today,
Tribe recently taking a job in the Department of Justice along with
Kagan. She was named dean at Harvard by Larry Summers, who helped
deregulate much of Wall Street in the Clinton administration and
organize much of its bailout under Obama.
"Kagan has said 'I love the Federalist Society.' This is a
right-wing group; almost all of the Bush administration lawyers
responsible for its war and torture memos are members of the Federalist
Society. Many members of the Federalist Society say that Brown v. Board
of Education [which struck down 'separate but equal'] was decided
"Five currently on the U.S. Supreme Court were or are members of the
Federalist Society: Harvard Law graduate Roberts; Harvard Law graduate
Scalia; Harvard Law graduate Kennedy; Yale Law graduate Thomas; and Yale
Law graduate Alito. A narrow elite is imposing itself through the legal
system, and ordinary Americans need to start asserting themselves."
Kagan, it should be remembered, ran interference (as did Cass Sustein) for Roberts. She lobbied Senators and also did a lot of non-public wrangling on Roberts' behalf. She is not of the left (nor is Sustein). There are many people who are worthy. Kagan is not one of them. Boyle wouldn't endorse Hillary Clinton, but others have. Caro of MakeThemAccountable notes:
The denials have been pretty weak.
Hillary for the court
by Brent Budowsky
Secretary of State Clinton would be the Super Bowl choice for Supreme Court justice. Like [retiring Justice John Paul] Stevens, she would almost certainly evolve into a kind of shadow chief justice. She would be a leader and pivot point for court liberals in the same way Stevens is, while Chief Justice John Roberts appears determined to move the court to the right, and reject judicial precedent that conservatives disapprove of, instead of shaping consensus among justices.
Secretary Clinton possesses an exceptionally rare combination of qualities for a Supreme Court justice. She is a legal authority in her own right on various areas of the law, both domestic and international. She has very high-level experience in both the legislative and executive branches. She has a very diverse set of life experiences, and the breadth of having reached out to the full range of people and cultures that constitute the American people and the American experience.
While gender should not be dispositive, it would be a plus for the court to have a third female justice. While religion should not be dispositive, her Protestant faith would offer diversity and depth to the court.
Above all, Secretary Clinton offers the kind of interpersonal skills and political savvy that make Justice Stevens such an important justice, and so hard to replace.
Also advocating for nominating Hillary to the Supreme Court are Ruth ("The Supreme Court") and Rebecca ("the supreme court").