Friday, May 14, 2010. Chaos and violence continue,
Oh, the stupidity. The Status Of Forces Agreement is a contract (it's a treaty) and as such it can be extended. We've gone over and over that point while idiots who want to pretend they know something about the law gas bag to the contrary. They don't know what the hell they're talking about.
We will spoon food one more time. If the SOFA could not be extended (or replaced with another contract), then you would not have Nouri al-Maliki speaking of US troops ever staying beyond the end of 2011, right? If it ends the war and the US occupation, then that's that. That means, since Thanksgiving 2008, I have been wrong and I have wrongly interpreted the SOFA and I didn't know what I was talking about. Except . . . Let's drop back to the July 23, 2009 snapshot for this little detail:
Aljazeera reports, "The Iraqi prime minister has admitted US troops could stay in the country beyond 2011." Yeah, he did it today and it's only a surprise if you've never grasped what the Status Of Forces Agrement does and does not do. The Washington Post, for example, has one person on staff who understands the SOFA completely. That's one more than the New York Times has. Drop back to real time coverage (Thanksgiving 2008) and you'll see the Washington Post could explain what it did and didn't do and get it right. No other US outlet can make that claim. (The Los Angeles Times hedged their bets but did appear to grasp it in an article co-written by Tina Susman.) McClatchy Newspapers? Oh goodness, Leila Fadel made an idiot of herself over the SOFA. Even more so than the New York Times (Elisabeth Bumiller -- in December and January -- offered some realities but they were lost on the other reporters at the paper). The Times just got it wrong. Fadel got it wrong and sang praises of it. It wasn't reporting, it was column writing passed off as such. Today, Nouri declared, "Nevertheless, if the Iraqis require further training and support we shall examine this at the time, based on the needs of Iraq." Sound familiar? It should. This month you should have heard Adm Mike Mullen make the same statement, you should have heard General Ray Odierno make it over and over beginning in May and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has made it many times -- generally he's asked when he's visiting a foreign country because US reporters don't really seem to care. One exception would certainly be Dahr Jamail who was on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday and explained, "We still have over 130,000 troops in Iraq. Troops are not being withdrawn from Iraq. They are being relocated to different bases, some of the bases still within cities, but they are not being withdrawn thus far." Dahr's latest book The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan has just been released this month. IPA provides this context from Global Policy Forum's James Paul: "For all the talk of 'U.S. withdrawal' from Iraq, the reality on the ground is starkly different. U.S. troops still patrol the cities, in flagrant violation of the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, while Washington remains hugely influential in the politics of the country. The gigantic U.S. embassy looms large in Baghdad, U.S. forces still hold thousands of Iraqi prisoners in the vast U.S. prison camp in the southern desert, dozens of U.S. military bases remain in place including the sprawling 'Camp Victory' complex in Baghdad and Washington continues to press towards its ultimate goal -- the de facto privatization of Iraq's vast oil resources."
Nouri spoke of US forces remaining beyond the SOFA's 'withdrawal' -- that firm, firm SOFA. Ooops. That's because it's a contract. Both parties can follow every detail on the page and still decide that they want to extend it. That's how contracts work. We'll be kind and not name today's idiot, but, oh, the stupidity.
Idiot wants to pretend he knows the SOFA and he knows the law. He gives no indication that he knows either. First, he's unaware that a contract can be extended by the parties involved the agreement or replaced with another contract. The SOFA only exists to replace the UN mandate (the earlier contract which provided legal cover -- post-invasion -- for the occupation). The SOFA could be replaced with something else. Blathering on like an idiot, Idiot writes about "the governing document here is the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement which calls for a withdrawal of combat forces by the end of the summer and all forces by the end of 2011."
I'm not in the mood kids. Idiot doesn't understand the law. And the quote demonstrates he doesn't understand the SOFA. The SOFA has no call, repeating NO CALL, for a withdrawal of combat foces by the end of the summer. Why would it have that? Bush didn't put it in. That's Barack. And that's not in the SOFA. The SOFA was pushed through the Iraqi Parliament on Thanksgiving day 2008. Barack hadn't been sworn in. So sorry, Idiot, you don't know what the hell you're talking about. Read the SOFA and find the end of summer reference. It's not in there. (If the SOFA's too difficult for you to master, you can refer to Karen DeYoung's Washington Post report from last March.)
On the topic of the drawdown, we'll note Brian Montopoli (CBS News) today:
As CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reported Thursday, "first the delay in the Iraqi elections and then the dispute over the results has forced Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander in Iraq, to slow down his withdrawal plans."
"Right now, it is still possible to move that many troops - but just barely," wrote Martin. "Any further delay in the drawdown will cause him to miss the deadline."
With a complicit Democratic majority in Congress, and a Republican minority all too eager to keep us bogged down in Iraq until Kingdom come, no one is holding the Obama administration accountable -- and the American public, which never hears anything about Iraq in the "mainstream" media, doesn't even know what's happening. They voted for Obama, in the Democratic primaries and the general election, in large part because he promised to end the war. That he now appears to be reneging on his firm pledge comes as no surprise to us foreign policy mavens, never mind observers of the Obama Method -- which is to strike an angular stance, and then come up with all sorts of convincing reasons for abandoning his position.
To the majority of Americans, however, the pledge to get out of Iraq is carved in stone, and the only way to erase it is to shatter the tablet on which the President's electoral mandate is written.
What the Democrats are counting on is the complicity of the "opposition" party, which is not going to make Iraq an election year issue -- except insofar as they see it as a "model" for how to win the war in Afghanistan. The administration is also counting on the silence of the "antiwar" left, in congress and at the grassroots, simply because these forces -- easily bought off, and/or intimidated -- haven't given them any reason to worry in the past.
Counter-insurgency is war against a native people. It's colonialism and it was used to trick and then attack and slaughter the Native Americans and it was used during Vietnam and at other periods. It has a long, long history and a long, long history of human rights activists calling this war on a people out. But that history sorts drops by the wayside in the last ten years. While some have called it out -- and certainly James Cameron's Avatar drove the message home on what counter-insurgeny actually is -- people have been grossly silent. Barack groupies, of course, have to remain silent because Samantha Power, Sarah Sewell, Monty McFate, all of those counter-insurgency 'gurus' are Barack boosters and groupies don't call out their own. There is a development on the counter-insurgency front. Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reports it is now under internal criticism, "The biggest spur, however, is a growing recognition that large-scale counterinsurgency battles have high casualty rates for troops and civilians, eat up equipment that must be replaced and rarely end in clear victory or defeat."
Sahwa ("Awakening" Council and Sons Of Iraq are two other names) can be seen as a form of counter-insurgency or, more honestly, as paying the playground bully not to beat you up. Sahwa are Sunni fighters the US government put on the tax payer payroll because, as General David Petraeus and then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker repeatedly explained to the US Congress in April 2008, it stopped the Sahwa from attacking US military equipment and the US military. Nouri was supposed to have put them on the Iraqi payroll. It was announced repeatedly -- including in November 2009 -- but never really happened because "payroll" would mean every one of them would be paid and would be paid regularly. Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports that the Sahwa remain under threat and their leaders are assigned bodyguards while Nouri continues to distrust them:
Major general Mudhir al-Mawla, the director of the Sons of Iraq file in Iraq's national reconciliation commission, confirmed the scepticism in the government: "Ever since they began, there have been members of Maliki's administration who oppose them," he said. "They said they are like a militia and they all need to be disarmed. But they have played a very important role in giving precise information because they are locals. They know the locals and they know where their allegiances lie."
In March last year, in a move that underscored the distrust, Maliki's troops arrested a Sons of Iraq leader in the central Baghdad district of Fadhil and a two-day battle ensued. Ever since, he has been reluctant to travel to the frontline areas.
"[Maliki] came here once," said Awakening Council leader Sabah al-Mashadani in what was once another no-go zone in Baghdad, the former battlefield suburb of Adamiyeh. "He was very surprised when he was well received. He said: 'I thought everyone hated me here'."
In Arab Jabour, Sheikh Moustafa has never seen the prime minister, but he has seen his special forces, who arrested the sheikh in January on trumped up charges that he had killed five local men in 2007. The US military quickly took responsibility for the killings and Sheikh Moustafa was released in Maliki's name.
Sahwa asserts they protect the region from al Qaeda in Iraq. Lu Hui (Xinhua) reports, "Iraqi al-Qaida group has nominated its new leader called "minister of war" and vowed to continue deadly attacks with "dark days in blood color," said a statement posted on a militant website on Friday. The so-called "minister of war" of the Islamic State of Iraq was identified as al-Nasser Lideen Allah Abu Suleiman and he will replace Abu Ayyub al-Musri, who was killed in a military operation by Iraqi and U.S. forces last month"
Turning to Iraq, Liz Sly and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) declare, "In an embarrassing rejection of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's efforts to overturn his rival's lead in Iraq's inconclusive parliamentary election, a laborious manual recount of votes in Baghdad has turned up no evidence of electoral fraud and will not change the final outcome, officials said Friday." I disagree and we'll get to why in a moment. Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) states "it's not good news for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki" and I disagree with that as well. Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News) reports, "It took 11 days to recount by hand all 2.5m [million] ballots cast in Baghdad and the surrounding area. A spokesman for the electoral commission said the results would be made public on Monday and sent to the court for ratification." Khalid al-Ansary, Waleed Ibrahim, Jim Loney and Matthew Jones (Reuters) quote Independent High Electoral Commission spokesperson Qassim al-Aboudi stating, "There is no proof . . . that there was fraud or manipulation or big mistakes."
This is embarrassing for Nouri how? It be great if it were but how is it embarrassing if it is? Because no fraud was found? International observers were very clear that there was no fraud when Nouri was demanding a recount. If nothing had changed since then, this might be slightly embarrassing for Nouri. His political slate -- predicted to win -- had lost. If that were still the case, the recount results would be a major ha-ha.
But that's not how things stand. And the way it appears is Nouri stomped his feet for a recount but that was only one of the many stalling techniques he utilized to buy time to circumvent the Constitution and build a coalition. Screaming that there was fraud in the Baghdad recounts meant that others wouldn't rush to build a coalition with Ayad Allawi's slate (Iraqiya). Screaming fraud meant others might fear Allawi's lead would disappear. It bought time and Nouri, by that take, doesn't look embarrassed, he looks extremely crafty. Well played, puppet, well played. That hypothesis would explain why Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports, "Mr. Maliki's supporters had once claimed that the recount could reverse as many as 20 seats, but a spokesman, Ali al-Mousawi, said on Friday evening that Mr. Maliki would 'respect the results of the recount in Baghdad, whatever they were'."
Meanwhile Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) reports on the post-no-fraud-recount scene in Iraq:
If Maliki is confirmed as Iraq's next prime minister, the U.S. will have a partner it knows well and has been carefully handling throughout the process. While some believe Maliki's actions in recent weeks show he will use any means to stay in power, the embassy's view is that he is something of an opportunist and can be encouraged to curb questionable behavior.
"Like any politician, Maliki will use all legal and political tools at his disposal," a senior embassy official said, referring to Maliki's work with the Accountability and Justice Commission, the controversial de-Baathification commission controlled by Ahmed Chalabi and Ali Faisal al-Lami.
Both Hill and his military counterpart, Gen. Raymond Odierno, have said publicly that Chalabi and Lami are heavily influenced by Iran and the embassy has no illusions about their goal. "This is an organization of questionable legitimacy employing less than transparent means to challenge a legitimate election," the senior embassy official said.
He also confirmed reports that Hill will leave in July and be replaced by Ambassador to Turkey Jim Jeffrey. Stuart E. Jones, a deputy assistant secretary who handles Balkan affairs, will replace Baghdad No. 2 Robert Ford, who is still waiting out his stalled nomination process to become ambassador to Syria. Jones was previously the deputy chief of mission in Cairo.
In Tal Afar today, Iraqis attempting to enjoy a football game were greeted with bombings. BBC News reports at least 10 people are dead and one-hundred-and-twenty wounded after a car bombing "at the entrance to the stadium" with possible bombings then following the first explosion. Khalid al-Tayi (AFP) notes the deaht toll climbed to 25 (cites Interior Ministry official for that figure) and quotes Hussein Nashad stating, "We heard a loud explosion and the people behind me shielded me from the shrapnel. I ran away, but then I heard someone shout 'Allahu akbar' (God is greatest), and then there was another explosion." Al Jazeera explains, "Friday's attacks follow blasts in the city last October and July that left dozens of people dead. In March 2007, 152 people were killed when truck bombs targeted markets in the town." In other reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a Baghdad bombing which claimed 4 lives and left eight people injured, a Mahaweel bombing which injured seventeen people and a failed bombing attempt in Tuz Khurmato on a provincial council member (who is also a Turkmen).
Reuters notes 1 police officer and one security guard were shot dead in Falluja by unknown assailants with silencers and 1 tailor ("specialising in military uniforms") were shot dead in Mosul.
In other Iraq news, Wednesday the Center for Disease Control issued an alert for a Q Fever Infection:
Increasing reports of Q fever among deployed U.S. military personnel due to endemic transmission in Iraq, as well as a large ongoing outbreak of Q fever in the Netherlands, may place travelers to these regions at risk for infection. Healthcare providers in the United States should consider Q fever in the differential diagnosis of persons with febrile illness, pneumonia or hepatitis who have recently been in Iraq or the Netherlands. Physicians are encouraged to submit samples for proper laboratory testing and contact the CDC for consultation if needed. Q fever cases in travelers should be promptly reported to proper authorities.
Since Operation Iraqi Freedom commenced in 2003, over 200 cases of acute Q fever have been reported among U.S. military personnel deployed to Iraq. Since several of these cases were identified after returning to the U.S. or when they were no longer serving on active military duty, a heightened awareness for Q fever infection occurring in military personnel and civilian contractors is necessary to ensure prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Q fever is endemic in the Middle East, and transmission may be influenced by hot, dusty conditions and livestock farming practices which may facilitate windborne spread.
In addition, a large number of Q fever cases have occurred in the Netherlands since 2007, with over 3,700 human cases reported through March 2010. Infected dairy goat farms are believed to be the source of the outbreak, and the majority of human cases have been reported in the southern region of the country. To date, no imported cases of Q fever have been reported among American travelers returning home from the Netherlands.
Because travelers to these countries may have a higher likelihood of exposure to Q fever, the CDC Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch advises that physicians evaluate travelers returning from Iraq (particularly military personnel and civilian contractors) and the Netherlands with febrile illness, pneumonia or hepatitis for potential Q fever infection. Probable and confirmed cases should be reported to their local or state health department.
Q Fever Illness
Q fever is a zoonotic disease with both acute and chronic phases caused by the pathogen Coxiella burnetii. The primary mode of transmission to humans is inhalation of aerosols or dust contaminated by infected animals, most commonly cattle, sheep or goats. Direct animal contact is not required for transmission to occur as the organism may be spread by dust or wind. Infections via ingestion of contaminated dairy products and human-to-human transmission via sexual contact have rarely been reported. Q fever does occur in the United States, but fewer than 200 cases are reported annually.
Although asymptomatic infections may occur, an unexplained febrile illness, sometimes accompanied by pneumonia and/or hepatitis, is the most common clinical presentation. Illness onset typically occurs within 2–3 weeks after exposure. The mortality rate for acute Q fever is low (1–2%), and the majority of persons with mild illness recover spontaneously within a few weeks although antibiotic treatment will shorten the duration of illness and lessen the risk of complications. Chronic Q fever is uncommon (<1% of acutely infected patients) but may cause life-threatening heart valve disease (endocarditis). Patients with pre-existing heart valve disorders, pregnant women, and immunosuppressed persons are at increased risk for developing chronic Q fever. A Q fever vaccine is not commercially available in the United States and antibiotic prophylaxis is not recommended.
Physicians seeing a patient -- particularly military personnel or a civilian contractor - who has an illness consistent with Q fever and who has traveled to Iraq or the Netherlands in the 30 days prior to illness onset should perform appropriate laboratory testing. Serologic testing should be requested for IgG and IgM antibodies against C. burnetii Phase I and II antigen using indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA). PCR assays may be conducted on whole blood samples in the early stages of illness and prior to initiation of antibiotic therapy.
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), Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post), Martha Raddatz (ABC News) and Pete Williams (NBC News). And Gwen's column this week is "The Blog Wars." 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 quicker). 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. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Genevieve Wood on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's it's the homophobic 'leader' who traveled with a paid male escort who hires himself out for sex. For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:
The Blow Out
60 Minutes, Sunday, May 16, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.