Wednesday, September 1, 2010. Chaos and violence continues, no word yet from Tricky Dick Nixon on whether hell froze over or not but Barack did lie through his teeth last night, a look at reactions to Barack's speech and more.
Last night, US President Barack Obama hogged US air waves to spew a bunch of pretty lies, just pretty lies. He hailed Iraq as a success -- somehow forgetting that we have a measure for Iraq success. The White House proposed it at the end of 2006 and Congress signed off on it (and Barack was in the Senate at that time). They're called benchmarks. And Iraq's government or 'government' was supposed to meet those benchmarks to qualify for further funding. Not meet by the end of time, mind you, they were supposed to meet them ALL within 12 months. They never, ever did. Iraq is not a success and all the gas baggery in the world attempting to spin for Barack somehow forgot that the White House proposed a series of benchmarks, the Congress endorsed them and Nouri al-Maliki agreed ot them but they never got met. That would mean: Failure.
Today on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane explored the Iraq War with her guests Phyllis Bennis (IPS), Rajiv Chandrasekaran (Washington Post, author of Imperial Life In The Emerald City), and retired Gen James Dubik. And, FYI, Diane has a new book that was just released today Life With Maxie -- Maxie is her chichuahua and the book's being called a must for dog and pet lovers.
Phyllis Bennis: I think the reality is that getting our troops out is only step one. It's not step last of the obligations that we have to the people of Iraq. Most of us that have been against this war since before it was waged believe that getting the troops out now -- whether it was, we've said now seven years ago, we say now today -- is the first step. Before that we can't make good on the obligations of real reparations, real reconstruction. What we're doing instead, I'm afraid, Diane, is we're moving -- the transition is not from US control to Iraqi control but rather from Pentagon control to State Dept control. We're militarizing diplomacy by sending in -- now it would be armored cars or armored personnel carriers, planes, surveillance drones, a 7,000 armed contractor team of what I would consider mercenaries that will not be under the Pentagon's control so they will legally be able to stay even after the official pullout time because they won't be under the control of the Dept of Defense -- the only part that's identified in that agreement. So this is not good enough in terms of the moves that we need towards a real end to our military engagement.
The entire hour was worth listening to and we'll note other parts throughout the snapshot. But last night, Mr. Pretty Lies decided to share more of the same with the American people in a prime time address. With the world? No, Mr. Pretty Lies was happy to talk about 'sacrifice' but somehow the 'sacrifice' never really included the Iraqi people or, for that matter, the battered and bruised US Constitution which was violated by both the Bush administration and the Barack administration to start and continue the ongoing and illegal war on Iraq.
There is no legal recognition of pre-emptive wars of aggression. There never has been and, hopefully, there never will be. One of the most infamous wars is WWII and Adolf Hitler wages a war of aggression. Germany was not attacked. Germany made the decision to go to war. It was an illegal move on the part of Germany. By the same context, the US-led invasion was illegal.
The Iraq Inquiry has yet to issue any findings but testimonies have demonstrated that Tony Blair (then-Prime Minister of England when the war began) had already been advised that the war would be illegal without authorization from the United Nations. The UN resolution that passed was to allow inspectors into Iraq (to search for those mythical Weapons of Mass Destruction) . As one legal adviser serving under Blair after another has testified, that resolution did not 'okay' a war and, to be legal, a second resolution was needed. Blair was repeatedly informed of that. Even while being informed of that, he told Bully Boy Bush that whatever he (Bush) decided, England would go along.
The US did not want a second resolution and, based on British testimony, it appears that they did not want to go back for a second resolution because they feared that they might be hemmed in or constrained by a second resolution -- that conditions and qualifiers might be added. (Appears? The Inquiry's public testimony has largely come from the British -- plus Hans Blix)
The three 'biggies' for starting the illegal war were: US White House occupant Bully Boy Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard -- Howard, of course, is forever treated as the third wheel and forgotten.
The United Nations authorized inspectors to enter Iraq and search for Weapons of Mass Destruction. They found none. As noted during Hans Blix's ridiculous testimony to the Inquiry, Blair, Bush or Howard could claim Blix as the reason for their war of aggression. Blix repeatedly hedged in his reports, repeatedly painted things as more dire than they actually were and should be remembered as one of the War Hawks. But the three can't hide behind Blix because they all lied in their own countries. And, here, we'll do like history and just forget John Howard.
Tony Blair and his Cabinet lied to the citizens of the United Kingdom to sell the illegal war. They falsely asserted that the UK could be attacked by Iraq with WMD within 45 minutes. It was a lie. As has been demonstrated in public testimony to the Inquiry, it was a lie Blair knew to be a lie before it was ever repeated. Bush lied so much that it would be impossible to chart every one of them -- even with a series of Venn diagrams.
He lied by inference -- repeatedly linking 9-11 to Iraq when there was no connection between the two -- and he lied outright. On the latter, there was the "mushroom cloud" nonsense where he would attempt to scare the American public. At one point, he would warn of Iraq attempting to purchase "yellow cake uranium" which was a lie -- a known lie. Former US Ambassador Joe Wilson would be tasked with visiting Niger to determine whether the rumors were true or false. Wilson would report to the government that the rumors were false. As the lie was repeated and repeated by Bush and his administration, Wilson would begin to push back and, after the illegal war had started, pen the New York Times column "What I Didn't Find In Africa." As retaliation for documenting that the illegal war was built on lies, the administration would go after Wilson and target his wife Valerie Plame -- Plame was then an undercover agent for the CIA. Plame's cover would be blown by the administration. Scooter Libby would eventually get to know a federal prison very well as a result of his role in the outing of Plame.
Bush lied and people died. That was one of many slogans throughout the ongoing and illegal war. Bush did lie. He also lied to Congress. Colin Powell lied to the United Nations (Powell would infamously tell Barbara Walters in 2006 that his testimony to the United Nations was a ''blot'' on his record while lying that he didn't realize he was lying -- Powell's handmaiden Lawrence Wilkerson is a professional liar but he's become a MSNBC hero because he lies that Powell is innocent -- the record demonstrates otherwise -- and puts all blame on Bush). Bush lied, Dick Cheney lied, Collie lied (Cheney taunted that Collie needed to get down in the mud with the rest of them and that his approval rating was high enough that he could afford to), they all lied.
In the midst of their lies, in the fall of 2002, the administration forced a vote in Congress. What was being voted for is in dispute for some. What's not in dispute is that the vote was pushed by the administration ahead of the 2002 mid-term elections because -- having falsely linked Iraq and 9-11 and having created the 'terrorism' scare with never ending 'chatter' in the media -- the administration could use a no-vote in an attempt to paint opponents as 'weak on terror.' Elizabeth Edwards has always maintained that then-Senator John Edwards voted for the authorization believing that a second one would be needed. She maintained that, for example, to Ruth Conniff on the pages of The Progressive. (Matthew Rothschild's called out that assertion in his note to the readers in that issue.) Then-Senator Hillary Clinton has also stated that she believed the vote would still require the Bush administration to come back before Congress should the US go to war. Not-in-the-Senate Barack Obama gave a whiny and petulant speech about 'dumb wars' and wars and he wasn't opposed to all wars but he was opposed to this one -- at that time. By the 2004 DNC convention in Boston, he would be telling the New York Times that, had he been in the US Senate in 2002, he would have voted FOR the authorization. Elected to the US Senate in the fall of 2004, he would go on to repeatedly vote FOR the illegal war by repeatedly voting TO fund the war. Somehow that didn't matter to his press whores on the left and 'left' who would help create the fairytale (Bill Clinton called it correctly) that Barack was anti-war and had always opposed the Iraq War.
Lies were needed to sell the war, lies were needed to continue it. Judith Miller was a star reporter for the New York Times before the war began. She'd worked her way up to that post having previously worked for NPR, The Progressive and other outlets. Her pre-war reporting was little more than stenography which helped sell the wars. Miller, however, did not lie. She was a bad reporter. But if she'd lied, she wouldn't have disgraced herself in Iraq as she commandeered a US military unit and basically led them on search missions for WMD. Miller betrayed her profession but there's nothing to indicate that she also lied. (She appears to have foolishly believed every false claim used to sell the Iraq War.) Miller became the poster child of the illegal war (and would lose her job at the New York Times for that and other reasons -- so kicked to the curb was she that Maureen Dowd was allowed to mock Miller on the pages of the paper). But Miller was far from the only propagandist in the press corps who helped sell the illegal war. The others largely kept their heads down -- including the one who co-wrote the October 1, 2001 front-page New York Times article which first falsely linked 9-11 and Iraq and claimed that Saddam Hussein, then leader of Iraq, had terrorist training facilities where hijackers were trained (9-11 is September 11, 2011, when US planes were hijacked and two flown into the World Trade Centers, one crashed into the Pentagon and one crashed in a Pennsylvania field). It helped to have a penis. If you were a man, you didn't get called out.
This was best demonstrated when Miller was no longer a front-pager but the New York Times Go-Go Boyz in The Green Zone were. Their lies continued the Iraq War. But other than Danny Schechter, Molly Bingham, Thomas E. Ricks and the writers for WSWS, few bothered to call out the Dexy Gordons and John Burns. Dexy let the military proof his copy -- which is why it was how many days old when it hit the paper? But type up what the military wants and you too can win awards the way Dexy did. It was their lies that prolonged the illegal war most of all. Things were awful in Iraq but they didn't tell you that. In 2006, on campus speaking engagements, Dexy would suddenly want to share the things they didn't put in during real time and seemed to think that a campus qualified for a confessional and he was somehow absolved. Had they not been creating waves of Operation Happy Talk, the American public might have caught on a lot sooner to just how bad things were. There are the lies that start wars, there are the lies that continue them.
One of the biggest lies Barack conveyed last night was that the Iraq War was over. It is not over. Making that very clear is this from Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times):
(One soldier did ask if the end of combat operations meant the end of extra combat pay. Mr. Gates said that as far as he was concerned, combat pay still applied in Iraq, where troops are still being killed by homemade bombs, sniper fire and mortar attacks.)
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left two more injured, a second Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 provincial council employee and injured three more poeple, a Baghdad makret bombing which injured three people and Sadiyah bombing which injured PUK Party head Shakir Soltan and his driver. Reuters notes that "twin roadside bombings" in Baghdad resulted in six people injured.
Back to the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR),
Diane Rehm: On the other hand, Phyllis, the Iraqi government has been in place for six months since the elections, there has been no real government formed.
Phyllis Bennis: There is no government. There's a caretaker government, the holdovers from the last election are still in control with far too much power. They are completely dependant at the end of the day on US support -- political, financial and ultimately military. So the question is -- and I would really disagree with the general on this -- the future is not "ours" to make, the future belongs to Iraq. The future belongs to Iraqis. We are not Iraqis. And the notion that we are going to determine the question of when is their success isn't our judgment call. Unfortunately, the Iraqi leaders who are now in control don't represent their country. The Parliament does but the government does not and in that context it makes it very difficult to say well the government will have the right to say we'd like you to stay longer or whatever -- That's simply not representative of what we did to that country.
At 7:30 a.m. EST in the US, a handover ceremony began in Iraq. US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey introduced Joe Biden to the crowd (USF/MNF streamed the proceedings live this morning) as someone who "knows what it's like to have a close family member deployed" in Iraq. Speaking at Camp Victory's Al Faw Palace, Biden declared, with no sense of irony, of the location for the speech, "I can't but help think of the irony that we are here today occupying a palace for a noble reason that was once occupied by Saddam Hussein." A friend at the White House disputes my take. So I will note that maybe Joe did grasp the irony. Let's start with his assertions. One, the palace was once occupied by Hussein. Two, it is now occupied "for a noble reason by the US". Do we know the definition of irony? It's when the actual meaning is the opposite of the literal meaning. So did Hussein occupy the palace? Yes. Not ironic there. Is the US doing so "for a noble reason" -- Okay, that could be irony. Because it's not "for noble reasons."
"Our remaining troops, I might add, as combat ready as any in" the US military, Biden said. He later hailed Odierno as, "Not only a warrior but a diplomat." And command has just been handed over to Austin. Though why command of an 'ended' war would need to be handed over, It makes no sense unless you grasp that the Iraq War did not end last night with Barack's pretty lies speech. At the Defense Dept, there's a photo essay of the ceremony which existed primarily for Gen Ray Odierno to step down as the top US commander in Iraq and for Gen Lloyd Austin to take over. Sam Dagher and Julian E. Barnes (Wall St. Journal) note, "Gen. Odierno, who served for 55 months in Iraq in different capacities and had an enlisted son lose an arm in the conflict, paid tribute to the sacrifices of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers and the Iraqi people."
Back to the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR),
Diane Rehm: And what about the moral obligation to the people of the United States in terms of, number one, truth telling, number two, the human life sacrificed, number three, the money sacrificed? I mean, there are morals on both side when you enter a war. Phyllis?
Phyllis Bennis: This was never a moral war and I'm convinced that the lives of those soldiers that were lost, the US soldiers and the Iraqi civilians that were killed in such greater numbers were not worth it. I think that is a reality. I don't think you can declare something makes it worth it. It was a wasted, illegal war based on lies. And I think that if -- Look at Diane's question of how do we come to grips with this as a country. The issue is accountability and I think it's a great failure of our governing officials at every level, not just President Obama, but Congress in particular, that there has not been a clear effort to do what the Canadians have begun to do, what the British did, what all the coalition members have done to investigate who lied, what was the basis on which this war was waged and hold acountable those individauls who make that decision.
Let's go to reactions to Barack's speech last night. Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) has a very strong critique and we'll note this from it:
And I know every President, every politician, and now it seems every citizen must bow down to all the soldiers who serve in our military, but was it accurate of Obama to say that "at every turn, America's men and women in uniform have served with courage
and resolve"? I'm sure the vast majority did, and I wouldn't have traded places with any of them. But what about those who followed Rumsfeld's brutal interrogation orders? What about Abu Ghraib? What about the dozens of Iraqis our personnel murdered in detention? http://www.humanrightsfirst.info/pdf/06221-etn-hrf-dic-rep-web.pdf
Did that show "courage and resolve?"
Most distressingly, Obama treated the war in Iraq as if it were a minor, tactical disagreement, rather than a fundamental, black and white difference between two irreconcilable views. "I am mindful that the Iraq war has been a contentious issue at home," he said. "It is time to turn the page." To underline the point, he mentioned that he'd telephoned former President George W. Bush before delivering the speech, though he mercifully spared us details of that conversation. Needless to say, the unprovoked invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2003 was a clear-cut, criminal war of aggression, making it far more than a merely "contentious" issue. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died for no good reason, and many thousands more are likely to perish as Iraq's bitterly divided body politic settles its differences with guns and bombs over the next five or ten years. Millions of Iraqi children have been traumatized beyond repair. By going into Iraq, the United States alienated its friends, weakened its alliances, emboldened its adversaries, blackened its reputation, squandered a trillion dollars, suffered tens of thousands of dead and wounded, utterly failed to spread democracy and freedom in the region, vastly strengthened Iran's strategic position in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf and devastated a nation by shattering its economy, its state institutions and its very social fabric in a manner that will take at least two generations to repair. None of this seems to have occurred to President Obama, who wants to turn the bloody page.
[ . . .]
Unfortunately, despite Obama's words in pledging to withdraw US forces from Iraq by the end of 2011, he will find himself under enormous pressure to renege on that promise. And there's precious little reason to believe that he won't cave in to that pressure, particularly if Iraq devolves into civil war sometime in 2011.
Chris Floyd (World Can't Wait) disputes one of Barack's many false claims:
"We have met our responsibility!"
No, Mister President, we have not.
Not until many Americans of high degree stand in the dock for war crimes. Not until the United States pays hundreds of billions of dollars in unrestricted reparations to the people of Iraq for the rape of their country and the mass murder of their people. Not until the United States opens its borders to accept all those who have been and will be driven from Iraq by the savage ruin we have inflicted upon them, or in flight from the vicious thugs and sectarians we have loosed -- and empowered -- in the land. Not until you, Mister President, go down on your knees, in sackcloth and ashes, and proclaim a National of Day of Shame to be marked each year by lamentations, reparations and confessions of blood guilt for our crime against humanity in Iraq.
Also offering a strong critique is David Swanson's "More War Lies" (War Is A Crime):
Lies aren't used just to start wars, but also to escalate them, continue them, and even reduce or end them. And we got a pile of war lies from the president Tuesday evening.
Obama claimed the war on Iraq was initially a war to disarm a state. Really? And then "terrorist" Iraqis attacked our troops in their country. Yet if they had done that in our country, I suspect they would still be the terrorists. And then it became a civil war which we were innocently caught up in. Uh huh.
U.S. participants in this crime are heroes, always and everywhere. That's sacred. The troops' mission has involved protecting the Iraqi people, and by golly they've done a superb job, as long as we don't mention the complete devastation of Iraq, the million dead, the millions of refugees, and the intense resentment of those remaining toward our country for what we've done to theirs.
The Iraqi people now (dead, in exile, in a ruined nation) have a chance that they supposedly didn't have before we destroyed their country, a country that was actually a better place to live in in every way in 2003 than it is now, and in 1989 than in 2003. To hear President Obama, this war has been for the benefit of the Iraqi people, and these wars have been about al Qaeda and 9-11.
Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) breaks it down in one sentence, "President Barack Obama tonight made his carefully choreographed 'end of the Iraq War' speech, assuring Americans that this fake end, as opposed to the other fake ends, stands as an 'historic moment' in American history and a 'milestone' that 'should serve as a reminder to all the world' of America's military leadership." The New Republic offers Andrew J. Bacevich's "Obama Wants Us To Forget The Lessons Of Iraq:"
The Iraq war? Fuggedaboudit. "Now, it is time to turn the page." So advises the commander-in-chief at least. "[T]he bottom line is this," President Obama remarked last Saturday, "the war is ending." Alas, it's not. Instead, the conflict is simply entering a new phase. And before we hasten to turn the page -- something that the great majority of Americans are keen to do -- common decency demands that we reflect on all that has occurred in bringing us to this moment. Absent reflection, learning becomes an impossibility.
For those Americans still persuaded that everything changed the moment Obama entered the Oval Office, let's provide a little context. The event that historians will enshrine as the Iraq war actually began back in 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Iraq's unloved and unlovable neighbor. Through much of the previous decade, the United States had viewed Saddam as an ally of sorts, a secular bulwark against the looming threat of Islamic radicalism then seemingly centered in Tehran. Saddam's war of aggression against Iran, launched in 1980, did not much discomfit Washington, which offered the Iraqi dictator a helping hand when his legions faced apparent defeat.
Today Democracy Now! also devoted significant attention to Iraq. We'll attempt to note some of that in tomorrow's snapshot. Turning to England, at Iraq Inquiry Digest, Chris Ames notes this from the Telegraph of London: "Mr Blair says he was angry at being asked when giving evidence to the Iraq Inquiry led by Lord Chilcot earlier this year if he regretted anything. He writes that he took a conscious decision to give an answer that was incomplete so he would avoid a headline, 'Blair apologises for war'." Chris points out, "Blair justifies giving a public inquiry an incomplete answer because he was concerned about the headlines. Very Blair. But if you justify acting in that way for that reason, why would anyone believe anything else that you said?"