Friday, June 11, 2010


In opposition, Nick Clegg had some harsh criticism for the way that Gordon Brown's government restricted the ability of the Iraq inquiry to uncover the truth. Clegg's appointment as deputy prime minister seemed to promise a new attitude of openness and at the weekend he seemed to be promising to put this into practice. In particular, he promised that the inquiry will only be prevented from publishing documents for reasons of national security. But it looks as if nothing is going to change any time soon, if at all.
What Clegg said the Hay festival on Sunday -- as Today programme listeners will have heard this morning -- was true as far as it went, but his language about how to solve the problem is intriguing. He said that the inquiry's openness would be the key to determining its legitimacy and: "The battle that needs to be fought is to make sure in the final Chilcot report the presumption is towards real, meaningful, thorough disclosure." He added that "the challenge is to make sure there is real disclosure when they publish their findings." But Nick, you are the deputy prime minister. It's up to you.

That's the opening to Chris Ames' "Clegg's confused Iraq inquiry proposals" (Guardian). Ames, of course, has covered the Iraq Inquiry forever and a day -- and on the issues at the heart of the inquiry before Gordon Brown was even agreeing to allow a commission. Iraq Inquiry Digest is Chris Ames' site (his writing appears at the Guardian, The New Statesman and other outlets). Despite the fact that this Ames has led on the issue from the start, not only did NPR refuse to interview him (seeking out instead the bald idiot and professional New Labour apologist at the Guardian) but so did the very few Pacifica Radio programs that bothered to (briefly) note the Iraq Inquiry. Were we functioning on this site of the Atlantic, for example, Matthew Rothschild would have long ago booked Ames for Progessive Radio and spent the half-hour sorting through the issues and what the chances are that anything will come from the committee's investigation.

They should also be trying to book Peter Symonds who addresses the realites of US involvement in Iraq at WSWS:

In his comments last Friday, General Odierno declared that the “drawdown” was ahead of schedule -- 600,000 containers of gear and 18,000 vehicles moved out; and the number of bases down from 500 last year to 126 and set to decline to 94 by September 1. What is actually underway, however, is not a withdrawal, but a vast consolidation in preparation for the long-term occupation of the country by US forces.
The Stars and Stripes newspaper noted in an article on June 1 that the ratification of the US-Iraq security agreement in November 2008 governing the drawdown was followed by a massive expansion of base construction work. “In all, the military finished $496 million in base construction projects during 2009, the highest annual figure since the war began and nearly a quarter of the $2.1 billion spent on American bases in Iraq since 2004. An additional $323 million worth of projects are set to be completed this year.”
While the number of US bases may be declining, the Pentagon is establishing what are known as "enduring presence posts" -- including four major bases: Joint Base Balad in the north, Camp Adder in southern Iraq, Al-Asad Air Base in the west and the Victory Base Complex around Baghdad International Airport. These are sprawling fortified facilities -- Balad alone currently houses more than 20,000 troops. In addition to the 50,000 troops that will remain, there will be up to 65,000 contractors after September 1.
Under the 2008 agreement, the US military handed over internal security functions to Iraqi forces last year, but, under the guise of “training” and “support”, retains tighter supervision of the army and police. Moreover the Iraqi government can always “request” US troop assistance in mounting operations. As Odierno explained in a letter to US personnel on June 1, even after all US combat troops leave, “we will continue to conduct partnered counter-terrorism operations and provide combat enablers to help the Iraqi Security Forces maintain pressure on the extremist networks.”
The 2008 agreement sets December 31, 2011 as the deadline for all US troops to quit Iraq, but the construction of huge new US bases indicates a long-term US military presence under a Strategic Framework Agreement that is yet to be negotiated.

The US has announced it will close Camp Grizzly. Press TV reports that this is the camp next to the Iranian refugees that Iran wants Iraq to turn over to them. In other news of Iraqi and Iranian relations, UPI notes, "Iranian troops are reported to have crossed into Iraqi Kurdistan and built a fortified base, one of several recent military incursions as Iraq struggles to form a government amid efforts by Tehran to ensure that a pro-Iranian Shiite alliance takes power."

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two still lack four seats necessary (or so it is thought) to form the government. Yesterday Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) reported that the State of Law slate and the Iraqi National Alliance had officially "announced their merger". This morning Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) adds, " It still has to be formally approved by lawmakers when they convene for the first time on June 14."

Sahwa are also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq." They are, as former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and then-top US commander in Iraq Gen David Petraeus explained to Congress (repeatedly) in April 2008, Sunni fighters who were put on the US payroll so they wouldn't attack US troops and equipment. Nouri was supposed to take over payment of them and bring them into the government. Nouri does very little he promises. Over the weekend, he pulled their right to carry firearms in Diyala Province. Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) reports:
Leaders of the Sahwas controlling around 10,000 personnel in Diyala warned that they would stop cooperating with government security forces if their weapon permits and special badges were withdrawn. In other provinces, members of the Sahwas warned that they would not obey if they were ordered to disarm.
The government's hardline attitude towards the Sahwas came two days after the army had arrested Youssef Al-Hayalan, leader of the Sahwa in Buhruz, a district of Diyala province, who Iraqi authorities accuse of having contacts with Al-Qaeda.

Meanwhile how much do Iraqi citizens pay their government officials? Guess what? They aren't supposed to know. So much for 'democracy' in Iraq. At Inside Iraq, an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy notes Al Alam Newspaper has published possible salaries:

Iraqi president: About 700,000 USD a year
Iraqi Vice presidents: 600,000 USD a year but Iraqi news agencies said that Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi said he receives a One Million USD a month, in total.
Prime Minister office said that Al Maliki receives 360,000 USD a year. But some official sources said that the Prime Minister’s salary is equal to the Iraqi President’s - so they should receive the same salary.
Head of the Judiciary council makes about 100,000 USD a month (not clear on allocations).

TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, John Dickerson (CBS News, Slate), Alexis Simendinger (National Journal) and Karen Tumulty (Washington Post) join Gwen around the table. Gwen's column is "Unconventional Wisdom" and, Gwen, you flatter yourself. A part of me just wants to note that she doesn't see women as all that important from Tuesday's elections. That's her opinion and we could just zip along. But, wait, this is Gwen who never, NEVER, achieves equal parity in the gender of her guests. Never. This is the same Gwen who last week featured three men around the table and no female guests. Do you know how often she does that? Do you know she never features an all female panel? So Gwen's skated out onto a lake she thought was frozen but she's actually about to fall through.

Gwen insists that it can't be "year of the woman" (we'll come back to that phrase) because, "The truth is, none of these women made gender-based appeals". What? Is this not the same Gwen who wrote that bad book, full of silly claims about race, based on Barack's 2008 campaign? (A campaign, it should be noted -- even if Gwen didn't -- that refused to present an agenda of how to assist African-Americans of any class and instead attempted to pretend we live in a color-blind world -- when not, of course, screaming "racist!" at anyone who wouldn't drink the Kool-Aid.) I wasn't aware that a woman, to be successful, needed to make a "gender-based appeal"? But I am aware that Blanche Lincoln (and her campaign) knew that women were the key to her win and that they were actively courted (and that paid off, women of all races and African-American males were Blanche's strongest supporters according to exit pollng). I am aware that Jane Harman's campaign knew they had to shore up support from female voters (and that they didn't see this as especially difficult since her primary opponent had no interest in reaching out to that group). We could go on and on.

But women were successful and they were the story of Tuesday. I don't know why Gwen wants to trot out "Year of the Woman." We didn't use the phrase here, I haven't heard anyone use it on radio, when it's popped up in print this week, it's usually been to note 1992. And the phrase gets trashed a great deal but, if we're being honest, it's a powerful phrase and maybe those of us who've accomplished a few things in our lives need to stop being so prickly about it and start thinking of how it can sound fresh and inviting to a young teenage girl?

Regardless, Gwen has the chance each week to provide gender equality. But she doesn't. She chooses not to. That's her choice and she needs to be held accountable for it. And any time she wants to dismiss women's accomplishments, she doesn't get a pass. It needs to be noted that this woman with the power to present equality on TV repeatedly takes a pass.

"Unconventional Wisdom," Gwen? You flatter yourself on both counts.

This week,
Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Jehan Harney, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Melinda Henneberger, Tara Setmayer 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 online bonus is on drilling for oil. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Cyber War
Could hackers get into the computer systems that run crucial elements of the world's infrastructure, such as the power grids, water works or even a nation's military arsenal, to create havoc? They already have. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video

The Great Explorer
Robert Ballard discovered the Titanic, the Bismarck and the PT 109 and now 60 Minutes cameras are there for his latest discovery, 1,500 feet down in the Aegean Sea off Turkey. Lara Logan reports. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, June 13, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio. Today on The Diane Rehm Show (airs on most NPR stations and streams live online beginning at 10:00 am EST), Diane is joined the first hour (domestic news roundup) by Byron York (Washington Examiner), David Corn (Mother Jones) and Dayo Olopade (Daily Beast). For the second hour (international), she's joined by Yochi Dreazen (Wall St. Journal), Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) and Abderrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera).

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee continues to highlight daily videos and we'll note Senator Dick Durbin on science and global warming:

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