Thursday, September 02, 2010

2 days later, the speech still doesn't go down easy

On Free Speech Radio News yesterday, Norman Solomon shared the following evaluation of Barack's Tuesday night speech, "The speech really wasn’t so much about Iraq except as a segueway to glorify a war based on lies, and then by contrast, at least inferentially, declaring the Afghanistan war as even more glorious, ostensibly." Meanwhile Andrew Malcolm (Los Angeles Times) reports Barack Tweeted his own speech.

You walked into party
Like you were walking onto a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf it was apricot
You had one eye in the mirror
As you watched yourself gavotte . . .
-- "You're So Vain," written by Carly Simon, first appears on Carly's No Secrets

He is so very vain. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) offers the views of some Iraqis:

Outside the heavily fortified Green Zone, where many of Biden's meetings took place, Iraqis expressed fear and frustration.
"We wanted change, and nothing's changed," said Mohammed Imad, 21, leaning against a wall covered with old election posters.
Despite the fears voiced in the streets, Maliki declared Tuesday a day of "celebration."
"This is a day that will remain in the memory of all Iraqis. Today, Iraq has become a sovereign and independent country," the prime minister said on state television. "Unfortunately, we are facing a campaign of doubt."
"Whose celebration is this?" said Ibrahim Abdul Wahab, 57, a resident of Haifa Street in downtown Baghdad, where Sunni insurgents were in control more than two years ago. "It's his, not Iraq's. Where are the promises of the planned democracy?"

Also offering the opinions of Iraqis is Stephen Farrell and the New York Times' Baghdad Bureau (at the paper's At War and link contains video and text) who speak with 26 Iraqis. Meanwhile Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports:

As the American combat mission officially ended, Iraqi politicians, security officers and civil servants spoke of a daunting series of challenges they face until the end of 2011, when the last of nearly 50,000 remaining U.S. troops assisting Iraqi forces are scheduled to depart.
At the top of the list are how to combat steadily rising violence and how to cope with the lack of a new government six months after inconclusive national elections were held. Rather than move forward, the parliament has met just once, and Iraq's caretaker government has stalled on projects aimed at improving people's lives.
"There are no decisions. We are just hanging now and we have stopped everything. We are waiting for the government to make decisions," said Ghazi Abdul Aziz Essa, director-general of Baghdad's main power plant."The delay affects the system very badly. It's not good for us."

The political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 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 -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 26 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.

Today David Ignatius (Washington Post) reports on the stalemate:

Talking with Iraqis in recent days, I've heard foreboding about what lies ahead as U.S. military power declines. "Frankly speaking, we are not moving ahead," said former prime minister Ayad Allawi, whose party won the largest number of seats in the March parliamentary election but so far has been unable to form a government.
"There is going to be a vacuum in the country," Allawi said in a telephone interview. "I don't think the U.S. should dictate things, but they should continue to be engaged." American officials keep insisting that "engagement" is indeed the new watchword, but their involvement in recent months, led by Biden, has been episodic and mostly unsuccessful.
One of the mysteries of U.S. policy is why Washington keeps pushing a formula that will allow Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to keep his job (or another top post) at a time when he is rejected by nearly all Iraqi political parties. America's silent ally in this peculiar gambit is Iran. After so much pain, Iraq deserves better.

In his speech, Barack expressed no awareness of the ongoing refugee crisis, the largest in the world. Erica Goode (New York Times) looks at one of the Iraqi correspondents for the paper who was granted asylum in the US:

It is now almost nine months since Anwar came to the United States with her family, under a special visa program for Iraqis who have risked their lives for Americans. Like a number of the Iraqis who worked with The Times in Baghdad — often translating far more for us than simply the words being spoken by an interview subject — she and her husband decided to give up their relatively high-paying jobs, their apartment, their city, their religious community and extended families, for an uncertain life in a country they knew only through its soldiers and its journalists. The coin of exchange was a single word: safety.
Sometimes I worry that the trade was not worth it.
The family is struggling, financially and emotionally. There is much that they like here, but also much that remains strange. They worry about their family members who are still in Iraq.

In other news, we'll note this from labor journalist David Bacon's "With Papers Or Without - The Same Life In A Labor Camp" (New American Media):

On a ranch north of the Bay Area, several dozen men live in a labor camp. When there's work they pick apples and grapes or prune trees and vines. This year, however, the ranch has had much less work, as the economic recession hits California fields. State unemployment is over 12%, but unemployment in rural counties is always twice what it is in urban ones. Unemployment among farm workers, however, is largely hidden.
In the case of these workers, it's hdden within the walls of the camp, far from the view of those who count the state's jobless. Because they work from day to day, or week to week, there are simply periods when there's no work at all, and they stay in the barracks.
In past, the ranch's workers were mostly undocumented immigrants. In the last several years, however, the owner has begun bringing workers from Mexico under the H2-A guest worker program. While there are differences in the experiences of people without papers and guest workers, some basic aspects of life are the same. For the last several weeks, all the workers in the camp have been jobless, and neither undocumented workers nor guest workers can legally collect unemployment benefits. Everyone's living on what they've saved. And since the official total of the state's unemployed is based on counting those receiving benefits, none of the men here figure into California's official unemployment rate.
The camp residents share other similarities. Poverty in Mexico forced them all to leave to support their families. Living in the camp, they do the same jobs out in the fields.. All of them miss their families and homes. And that home, as they see it, is in Mexico. Here in the U.S. they don't feel part of the community that surrounds them.

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST). And we'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "FINANCIAL DEPRESSION SPREADS AMONG SENIORS" (OpEdNews):

President Obama has U.S. taxpayers paying billions to meet the costly payrolls of 50,000 troops and 190,000 contractors in Iraq while 20-million-plus jobless are looking for work in USA and can't find it.
Among the hardest hit now are more than 2-million people age 55 and over, half of whom have been looking for work for six months or longer. For them, the Great Recession is a no-fooling, deepening Depression.
Many of these seniors have no families to care for them. Others are too proud to ask their families, churches, or relief agencies to help them in their time of need. Even so, many a proud, independent, well-dressed senior is a soup kitchen regular because it's either that or go hungry.
Many seniors have been loyal to a corporation for much or all of their working lives only to discover the corporation has no loyalty to them. Instead, their employer laid them off before the retirement age and hired a younger, cheaper worker to replace them or just shipped their job to an office or plant on foreign soil. Many seniors are right to feel betrayed.
“The unemployment rate for this age group actually reached 7.1 percent in May, the highest it's been since the late 1940s,” writes A. Barry Rand, chief executive officer of the AARP in his September “Bulletin.” That's more than double the 2005 rate of 3 percent.

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