Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Congress hears about the mythical withdrawal

Yesterday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the nomination of US Ambassdor James Jeffrey. He is currently the US Ambassador to Turkey, President Barack Obama has nominated him to be the US Ambassador to Iraq. (He would replace the current disaster, Chris Hill.) Last night, Kat covered it at her site with "Senate Foreign Relations Committee," Wally covered it at Rebecca's site with "Kaufman and Casey," and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "Kerry, Lugar and Feingold." Those are all strong entries but if I'd known that no one was going to grab Russ Feingold's exchange, I would have included that in Tuesday's snapshot instead of focusing on the opening statements and Bob Casey's inept 'chairing' of the committee. We'll focus some on the hearing again today in the snapshot.

That was not the plan. While it's true that Chris Hill's one hearing got two days of coverage (March 25 and 26, 2009 snapshots), his hearing was actually longer. Jeffrey appeared before the hearing as the first panel with another panel of other nominees for other post after.

Jeffrey's hearing was a joke. Kerry and Lugar walked out to attend to other business -- Chair John Kerry, Ranking Member Richard Lugar -- and Bob Casey was left in charge to continue the meeting but after editorializing -- and doing so badly (unless facts don't matter to you) -- he suddenly had nothing to say and the hearing came to a grounding halt as we all waited -- and waited and waited -- for Kerry and Lugar to return.

Russ Feingold

Russ Feingold is a Democratic senator from the state of Wisconsin. He had the strongest exchange. Leaving aside only the 'so good to see you' yada yada, here's his exchange.

Senator Russ Feingold: [. . .] And last year Ambassador Hill testified that any delay in withdrawing our troops by 2011 would "be poorly received by the Iraqi people." Do you agree with that assessment? Share that assessment?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: I have seen all the polls, Senator, I just reviewed them in the last two days -- that we've taken and that other people have taken -- and, uh, the Iraqi, uh, populace in very large numbers -- at least outside of the Kurdish areas -- does want to see our forces withdraw.

Senator Russ Feingold: Thank you, sir. The State Dept is planning to make up for the departure of US troops by doubling its security contractors. Even though such contractors often don't have the essential security capabilities that are provided by our troops. I'm concerned this will be dangerous and also lead to a situation where we don't have meaningful control over our own contractors. What alternatives have you considered?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: Senator, this is an extremely important point. Uh, if confirmed as chief of mission, my first responsibility will be for the safety and security of the personnel under my supervision and I've put a lot of time and effort into looking at this. Uhm. The -- after the incident in 2007 in Baghdad involving the Blackwater security people, the State Dept did a very thorough investigation called the Kennedy Report. I've read that report. It concluded -- and I think that this conclusion remains true today -- that the State Dept has done a very good job in an extremely lethal environment protecting its people and keeping them alive and safe; however, there needed to be certain steps, technical steps, rule of engagement steps, coordination steps -- coordination both with the US military and with the Iraq authorities, and more supervision. Now we put, uh, a direct hire State Dept officer or person with all movements So -- And we have more technical control through, uh, basically recordings, audio and video equipment and such so that we're able to determine what happened and review any incident and since then there has not been a serious incident. But I want to underscore, this is a very, very difficult mission. This is, uh, uh, a defensive mission, not an offensive one, but it involves thousands of people, many movements in a very lethal environment and it is something we have to remain very concerned about.

Senator Russ Feingold: Thank you, Ambassador. State Dept Human Rights Report on Iraq found that -- as in previous years -- reports of abuse at the point of arrest and during the investigation period -- particularly by the Ministry of Interior's federal police and the Minister of Defense battalion level forces -- continued to be common. Federal law requires a certification before the United States can continue to provide certain kinds of security assistance to any state that has "consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights." In your view, how many years of violations must occur before such a certification of a consistent pattern of abuses is required?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: I've read the report, Senator, I would have to look at this in more detail. The effort that we're trying to do, including the police training effort, is to try to get at the violations and the abuse which we have seen in the past and we have seen it -- We saw it when I was there, we've seen it since then, it's been documented. Our hope is that we can see this on a declining slope. And it is something that I will look at very carefully if I'm confirmed and if I go out there.

Senator Russ Feingold: Well of course I applaud that and I urge you on in the effort to make sure that these units are vetted, but my question was: How many years of violations?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: I can't assess that at this time, Senator.

Senator Russ Feingold: Can you get back to me on that?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: I can.

Senator Russ Feingold: Okay. More broadly, how if confirmed will you work with the relevant US and Iraqi entities to faciliate improvements in human rights in Iraq which according to the State Dept report are far less -- far below adequate?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: Again, that is the assessment of the State Dept Human Rights Report and Iraq is coming out of a horrific conflict and out of thirty years of dictatorship and almost constant war, both civil, internal war, war with Iran, war with Kuwait It's going to take some time for Iraq, even with a democratic government and democratic institutions to move into a environment even more in the average in the region but certainly what we would like to see in the more developed parts of the world. It's going to take time.

Senator Russ Feingold: And in that regard, sectarianism obviously remains a very real problem in Iraq, including in security forces. If confirmed how will you work with the Iraqi government to help make this a priority issue and to push for concrete improvement?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: There are various efforts that we already have underway that I will review and reinforce if I'm confirmed Senator for example, we now do joint-patrols with the US forces, Kurdish forces, peshmerga forces, Iraqi army forces along the disputed internal borders. We are putting a special effort into the minority communities -- I mentioned that in my opening statement, it's of great concern to me. It was then when I was there last time, it remains so. We are also looking at the makeup and the composition of the security forces. It has improved over time but it is something that has been worrisome in the past and it is something that requires continued vigelance.

Senator Russ Feingold: Yes, sir. Finally, the New York Times recently reported on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of crude oil and refined products being smuggled across the Iran-Iraq border every year. What steps is the Iraqi government taking to address this problem? given not only its potential to undercut our efforts with Iran but also tensions over resource revenue sharing in Iraq itself?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: We're very concerned about this given the latest, uh, uh, sanctions legislation that the US has passed but also, uh, the role of that in the relationship between Iraq and Iran. I know that we're looking into this latest charges -- the latest information -- at the embassy and with the Iraqi government and also with the folks in the north [Kurds] because some of that smuggling has been identified in the north.

We'll note Feingold's exchange in full in the snapshot because, as usual, he actually dealt with substantive issues.

The hearing was a disappointment in many ways but more disappointing has been reading the limited coverage. Viola Gienger (Bloomberg News) filed an accurate report. Others can't say the same and are further impaired by headline writers which turn the writing into pure spin.

And great, the entry is lost beyond the above. I'm on the phone now dictating this.
We don't have time to reconstruct the entire thing. Main points only. Samantha Power -- War Hawk -- explained to Barack when he was a senator why contractors couldn't be banned from Iraq. We see the effects of that in his plan whereby the State Dept becomes militarized in Iraq, whereby it is over 'operations' and has armed 'employees' at various "outposts" in Iraq, whereby it becomes responsible for training Iraqi security forces, etc. These are not State Dept duties. These are duties Samantha Power publicly advocated when the Cult of St. Barack was too busy whoring for Princess Tiny Meat to inform their readers, viewers and listeners.

And on that topic, read Hillary Is 44's "Hillary Was Smeared First - DailyCaller, Race-baiting JournoList, And DailyKos DailyKooks - The Big Media/Big Blog Cartel" -- as Cedric's "The list" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! MAKE A LIST!" notes, this is just the sort of operation Republicans used to savage Bill Clinton in the 90s. What a proud (sarcasm) moment for the left that they used it to attack Hillary. Liars and whores have been exposed for what we knew they were.

If you're late to the party, from Jonathan Strong's "Documents show media plotting to kill stories about Rev. Jeremiah Wright" (The Daily Caller):

It was the moment of greatest peril for then-Sen. Barack Obama’s political career. In the heat of the presidential campaign, videos surfaced of Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, angrily denouncing whites, the U.S. government and America itself. Obama had once bragged of his closeness to Wright. Now the black nationalist preacher’s rhetoric was threatening to torpedo Obama’s campaign.

The crisis reached a howling pitch in mid-April, 2008, at an ABC News debate moderated by Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. Gibson asked Obama why it had taken him so long – nearly a year since Wright’s remarks became public – to dissociate himself from them. Stephanopoulos asked, “Do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?”

Watching this all at home were members of Journolist, a listserv comprised of several hundred liberal journalists, as well as like-minded professors and activists. The tough questioning from the ABC anchors left many of them outraged. “George [Stephanopoulos],” fumed Richard Kim of the Nation, is “being a disgusting little rat snake.”

Others went further. According to records obtained by The Daily Caller, at several points during the 2008 presidential campaign a group of liberal journalists took radical steps to protect their favored candidate. Employees of news organizations including Time, Politico, the Huffington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Guardian, Salon and the New Republic participated in outpourings of anger over how Obama had been treated in the media, and in some cases plotted to fix the damage.

What's being described isn't journalism. A journalist would need to disclose. A journalist working for a campaign would need to put their work on hold. As The Nation employee that Richard Kim coordinated actions with. Not Richard Kim, mind you, that little whore never knew the first thing about journalism. He's a disgusting piece of s**t. And that's why he never called out Barack's use of homophobia. Richard Kim writes the token gay pieces for The Nation, remember? Up until Barack begins deploying homophobia in the primaries. Then Richard Kim goes silent.

And he's far from alone. Amy Goodman's calling out this homophobic associate and that only to stop when Barack's use of homophobia in South Carolina comes up -- she even has one of the authors of the article -- the only serious one -- written about that on her show but 'forgets' to ask him about his article -- his article that's in the issue of The Progressive while she's speaking to him. But months later, she's denouncing some preacher who endorsed John McCain for homophobia. Cute, wasn't it? And cute how McCain's associates mattered but not Barack's. The system was gamed to take out Hillary and the 'journalists' continued lying to the public.

Everyone of them should be fired. There's no excuse for that. It is not journalism and it goes against everything journalism believes in. It is trickery, it is deceit and it is highly undemocratic. It may, in fact, considering the outlets involved, have also been illegal.

Added: Wally and Cedric are calling for a list. I agree. People need to know who lied to them. Here's more for the list:

Spencer Ackerman, The Washington Independent
Eric Alterman, City University of New York
Dean Baker, The American Prospect Online
Steven Benen, The Carpetbagger Report
Julie Bergman Sender, Balcony Films
Ari Berman, The Nation
Brian Beutler, The Media Consortium
Michael Bérubé, Crooked Timber, The Pennsylvania State University
Joel Bleifuss, In These Times
Sam Boyd, The American Prospect
Lakshmi Chaudry, In These Times
Joe Conason, Journalist and Author
Brad DeLong, Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal and UC Berkeley
Kevin Drum, The Washington Monthly
Henry Farrell, Crooked Timber, George Washington University
James Galbraith, University of Texas at Austin
Todd Gitlin, Columbia University, TPM Cafe
Merrill Goozner (formerly Chicago Tribune)
Ilan Goldenberg, The National Security Network
Robert Greenwald, Brave New Films
Christopher Hayes, The Nation
Don Hazen, Alternet
Michael Kazin, Georgetown University
Ed Kilgore, The Democratic Strategist
Richard Kim, The Nation
Ezra Klein, The American Prospect
Mark Kleiman, UCLA/The Reality Based Community
Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed
Ari Melber, The Nation
Rick Perlstein, Campaign for America's Future
Katha Pollitt, The Nation
David Roberts, Grist
Thomas Schaller, Columnist, The Baltimore Sun
Mark Schmitt, The New America Foundation
Adele Stan, The Media Consortium
Jonathan Stein, Mother Jones Magazine
Mark Thoma, The Economist's View
Michael Tomasky, The Guardian
Cenk Uygur, The Young Turks
Tracy Van Slyke, The Media Consortium
Kai Wright, The Root

Those are only some of the WHORES. They are not journalists, do not mistake them for journalists. They are WHORES who conspired and plotted while self-presenting as journalists. Journalism requires a level of objectivity and it requires disclosure. WHORES, by contrast, just worry about the bucks. The above are whores.

We'll close with this from Debra Sweet's "Drawing Our Own Conclusions" (World Can't Wait):

I saw the film Restrepo over the weekend, having read of the film makers' intention to "capture the experience of combat, boredom and fear through the eyes of the soldiers" without making a "political statement." "This is war, full stop. The conclusions are up to you."

It's a wrenching, real look at what the Army did in the Korengal Valley before they pulled out last year, seen only through the eyes of the platoon sent to open a road to Pakistan. You don't hear a woman's voice in the 90 minutes. Women are glimpsed clutching children ony when a US air strike kills civilians, which the Captain explains is a real problem for him not because he cares, but it makes it difficult to win hearts and minds. In the scene at left, the elders complain that a man has "disappeared" to a prison, for no good reason. The Captain says, "can't you see that I don't f---ing care?" And so it goes. 50 US troops are killed along with untold numbers of civilians.

You could not care anything about humanity and come out of the film thinking this is a good war. I'm glad I went to see it. What are your conclusions? Write me This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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thomas friedman is a great man