Thursday, September 2, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US encourages people to take business into Iraq, Joe Biden discusses the possibility of the US staying in Iraq after 2011, and more.
Tuesday night US President Barack Obama gave a ridiculous speech declaring (again declaring) the end to 'combat operations' in Iraq. Bill Van Auken (WSWS) weighs in to note, "President Barack Obama's nationally televised speech from the White House Oval Office Tuesday night was an exercise in cowardice and deceit. It was deceitful to the people of the United States and the entire world in its characterization of the criminal war against Iraq. And it was cowardly in its groveling before the American military. The address could inspire only disgust and contempt among those who viewed it. Obama, who owed his presidency in large measure to the mass antiwar sentiment of the American people, used the speech to glorify the war that he had mistakenly been seen to oppose." Sharif Abdel Kouddous (Democracy Now! -- link has text, audio and video) asked journalist Nir Rosen for his reaction to Barack's speech:
Well, I was offended by it. He spoke mostly about American soldiers and their suffering and their sacrifice, and the only time he came even close to mentioning that Iraqis had a hard time these last seven years is when he mentioned their resilience. He said that the US has paid a high price, a huge price. Not as huge as the Iraqis have paid. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed. Tens of thousands of Iraqis who were rendered in American detention, their lives ruined for years, children who didn't know where their fathers were. A couple of million displaced internally and abroad. Iraq is a shattered country. He said we persevered because we share a vision with the Iraqi people. Most of the Iraqi people, their vision has been, for the last seven years, that the Americans would withdraw. Now, really, nothing has changed, obviously, from one day to the next. You have 50,000 troops who remain here. When Iraq occupied Kuwait, the Americans said that as long as there's one Iraqi soldier left in Kuwait, Kuwait remains occupied. So the presence of 50,000 troops in Iraq forecloses many options, precludes many options for the Iraqis, with the implied threat. At the same time, the Iraqi security forces, I think, would like to have a continued relationship. And while Iraq is sort of occupied, it's also sort of sovereign. You don't see -- you haven't seen really for the last year in most parts of the country American soldiers on the ground. So, nothing changed today. The big change, you could say, was a year ago, when the Americans withdrew from cities and mainly stayed on bases. And we've had a test since then of the Iraqi security forces in their ability to handle the situation. And I'd say they, more or less, can handle it.
Arab News observes, "But in reality US forces, about 50,000 personnel, are still in Iraq and will continue to be there for an unspecified period of time. They are distributed in over 90 military bases throughout the country. They are there to support and assist Iraq forces, when needed, but they will stay out of the cities. Meanwhile, private American security firms are being handed multi-million dollar contracts to carry out odd jobs and assignments in Iraq. Iraqis still remember the killings that Blackwater agents were responsible for. There are no figures on how many US mercenaries will be dispatched to Iraq to carry specific security assignments. But the issue is contentious and the majority of Iraqis are suspicious of their role. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has expressed doubts about the wisdom of the latest American pullback. Last week he said that the stalled government, combined with the American troop withdrawal, created ideal conditions for insurgents to attack. Incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki echoed the same sentiments few days later and warned of a surge in militancy and attacks by Al-Qaeda members and Baathist operatives." On the ending, yesterday Democracy Now! aired a report by Jacquie Soohen:
US SOLDIER: Good job, guys! Way to go!
JACQUIE SOOHEN: But with 50,000 combat-ready American troops still in country, the occupation seems far from over.
ANDREW BACEVICH: The Obama administration will insist that those are not combat soldiers engaged in a combat mission. But if you've got twenty or thirty or forty thousand foreign troops stationed on your soil, I mean, if it looks like an occupation, and it smells like an occupation, and it sounds like an occupation, it's an occupation.
JACQUIE SOOHEN: The current Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq requires a full US withdrawal and an end to the occupation. And the US military and State Department are busy planning for what they call an "enduring presence" after the treaty's deadline on December 31st, 2011. But on bases like this one in Balad, Iraq, the military continues to invest hundred of millions in infrastructure improvements, and it is difficult to imagine them fully abandoning everything they are building here.
COL. SAL NODJOMIAN: Joint Base Balad is approximately ten square miles, which equates to about 6,500 acres. To put that in relative terms, Andrews Air Force Base, which is right outside DC, is about 20 percent smaller than that. And we don't even have golf courses here, so that kind of puts it in perspective of how big that is. We have about 28,000 people who call Joint Base Balad home.
Wednesday 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. At the end of the hour, the issue of the SOFA and withdrawal came up.
Diane Rehm: Now next year, when those 50,000 troops come home, are we going to have the same discussion again, Rajiv?
Rajiv Chandrasekaran: Well I'm not sure that it's assured that all of the 50,000 troops are coming home.
Diane Rehm: The president said he's going to stick to his own timetable.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran: Yes, but there's a caveat in all of that and that is if the government of Iraq requests US forces to stay on to continue to train or to do other advisory-and-assisting tasks that will be something that the US govenrnment will seriously consider.
Diane Rehm; You know it's been fascinating to me that, on the one hand, you hear Iraqis say: 'Get out! We don't want you here! It's you who are creating the problems.' And then as we get ready to leave, they're saying, 'Oh no, we need you --
Phyllis Bennis: The question --
Rajiv Chandrasekaran: There's a deep conflict among the Iraqi people. It's not -- it's not an overwhelming view, 'Hey, just get out!' There was that view early on and then when they slipped into depths the sectarian fighting over there, both sides, both principal parties of the conflict came to see for differening reasons the United States as some degree of at least --if not and honest broker, sort of a buffering force. So they still to some degree look at the America and say, 'Hey, we sort of need you here a little bit to help us fight." And they also look at the Americans and say, 'Hey you made us a lot of promises you need to stick around and fulfill some of them..'
Diane Rehm: Do you think those 50,000 will come home when the president said?
Gen James Dubik: I think we must plan for this withdrawal because that's the negotiated agreement we're under right now. But the agreement can be renegotiated and I don't think all 50,000 will leave.
Diane Rehm: Phyllis, very quickly.
Phyllis Bennis: I think they will be renegotiated and I think many of them will stay and it depends on who you ask. The military leaders in Iraq have every interest in keeping them there.
On The NewsHour (PBS -- link has text, audio and video) last night, Margaret Warner asked US Vice President Joe Biden, "Now, if this new government says, we would like to talk about a more longer-term arrangement and keeping some U.S. troops here as a sort of guarantor, are you saying that is a nonstarter?" Biden replied, "No, we're not saying that. We're saying we're going to keep the committment that we made, that George Bush made, President Bush made, to the Iraqi people and to the then-government of Iraq." And he then went off topic. Leading Margaret Warner to restate the question, "But you're not saying that -- that the Obama administration would absolutely refuse, if six months from now, a new Iraqi government said, it would be helpful for us to keep some . . ." Biden cut in, "It would be highly unlikely that we would even consider the idea of maintaining 50,000 troops indefinitely here in Iraq. But we have committed -- and we will keep the commitment to the Iraqi people and the government -- that all troops will be out by the end of next year. If they come forward and say, we don't want you to do that, we want you to leave some troops to help us on a specific item, we would, obviously, consider that."
Biden also stated, "The truth of the matter is, they're taking too long to form this government. But the second piece of this is, the Iraqi went and voted. But guess what? No clear -- not only no clear majority, barely a plurality. So, in a parliamentary system, this is not unexpected. But I am confident that they are now -- all have run the course of what other options they have, and it's getting down to the point where, in the -- in the next couple months, there's going to be a government." At some point. 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.
While Iraq's Parliament has only met once (and for less than 20 minutes then), DPA reports that the Kurdistan Regional Government's Parliament begins its fall session next week. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports that, along with the Pariament meeting only once, the Baghdad "caretaker government has stalled on projects aimed at improving people's lives" and quotes the director-general of Baghdad's electricity plant Ghazi Abdul Aziz Essa stating, "There are no decisions. We are just hanging now and we have stopped everything. We are waiting for the government to make decision. The delay affects the system very badly. It's not good for us." Today David Ignatius (Washington Post) reports on the stalemate in Baghdad:
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.
US Senator Richard Lugar (Republican) is against the drawdown. Scott Sarvay (Indiana's News Center) quotes Lugar stating, "For the moment they don't have a parliament that's meeting. They don't have an oil law with the Curds in the north that gives them the revenue for their treasury, and there were 13 different attacks in provinces last week, which Iraqis were killed by terrorists." Maybe the prime minister issue will get resolved sooner than later? Nayla Razzouk and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports that investors are avoiding Iraq due to "its weak business laws" and quotes Hayat Su's Ahmed Jamal stating, "We don't have factories or warehouses or anything like that. The investment laws are not suitable." Max Blenkin (AAP) adds that the US State Dept is attempting to get Austrlian companies to start working in Iraq. The violence is among the reasons many corporations are reluctant to go to Iraq. The violence?
Reuters notes the Higher Education Ministry's Jameel Shihab Ahmed was shot dead today in Baghdad, assailants attacked a Sahwa check point in Tuz Khurmato killing 1 Sahwa, "municial officer Farouq al-Gertani" was injured in an attack on his car which claimed the lives of 2 bodyguards, a Mosul roadside bombing injured one Iraqi service member, 1 Mosul kidnapped taxi driver was kidnapped, killed and his corpse dumped and, dropping back to Wednesday, assailants attacked a Sahwa checkpoint in Baiji injuring five and claiming the lives of 2. In addition, Reuters notes a bus carrying pilgrims overturned killing at least 10 Iranians on a pilgrimage to Najaf and injuring 33 more.
Melissa Block: You spent time traveling all over Iraq, and I'd like to start with you in the south of the country, the largely Shiite south, an area with huge oil reserves. What are conditions and security like there, for example, in the port city of Basra?
Zaid Al-Ali: Well, I mean, today, the conditions are very poor throughout Iraq, the south included. But comparably, if you're comparing it to, for example, 2007 or 2006, they've improved somewhat, especially from a security point of view. You can, you know, go from one place to the other without being certain that you'll be killed on the way or kidnapped. However, regularly, there's demonstrations and riots over poor quality of public services, particularly electricity and the state of hygiene. Basra used to be called the Venice of the south because it's a city that's made up of a large network of canals, and those are now filled with garbage, completely chock-o-block. It's really amazing. You have this sense of a very poor country despite all the wealth of natural resources.
Melissa Block: Right, so the people in the south aren't reaping the rewards of those oil riches that we mentioned?
Zaid Al-Ali: No, they aren't. And that's really the amazing thing is we often hear that Iraq's ruling elite is sectarian in the sense that the Shia only care about the Shia and the Sunnis only care about the Sunnis. Well, it turns out that that's not even true. If that were true, then there would be improvement on the current situation because in fact they don't render any services to anyone.
But for Fadel, the supposed sovereignty of Iraq is also contradicted by the "preponderant" US role in the country, particularly on security issues, and UN sanctions which give the New York-based institution considerable power here. "Baghdad is still under Chapter 7 of the UN charter," he said, which means that 20 years after the invasion of Kuwait, Iraq is still the target of drastic sanctions of the Security Council. Chief among them is the requirement to pay 5% of oil revenues into a UN special fund which handles war reparations, and to which Iraq has paid $30bn so far. "Iraq still needs the American umbrella. It is unable to protect itself from external attacks," Fadel added.
Barack's Tuesday night speech included his 'sharing the limelight' with his pal Bully Boy Bush. Marcia refers to it as "Barack goes down on Bush," Cedric and Wally saw it as proof that Barack's got a crush on Bush, Mike argued it was proof positive that Barack was both a fraud and a putz, Elaine fact-checked the little liar on his claim that Bush loved veterans and backed them and dreamed of them and Elaine fact checked him by noting what John Kerry argued in 2004 debates against Bush, and Rebecca went after War Hawk Tony Blair and his claim that "military action was justified" by noting that if it were justified why would it require lying. 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. Meanwhile the Center for Constitutional Rights' Bill Quigley and Laura Raymond observe:
Another false ending to the Iraq war is being declared. Nearly seven years after George Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Obama has just given a major address to mark the withdrawal of all but 50,000 combat troops from Iraq. But, while thousands of US troops are marching out, thousands of additional private military contractors (PMCs) are marching in. The number of armed security contractors in Iraq will more than double in the coming months.
While the mainstream media is debating whether Iraq can be declared a victory or not there is virtually no discussion regarding this surge in contractors. Meanwhile, serious questions about the accountability of private military contractors remain.
In the past decade the United States has dramatically shifted the way in which it wages war -- fewer soldiers and more contractors.
Last month, the Congressional Research Service reported that the Department of Defense (DoD) workforce has 19% more contractors (207,600) than uniformed personnel (175,000) in Iraq and Afghanistan, making the wars in these two countries the most outsourced and privatized in U.S. history.
According to a recent State Department briefing to Congress's Commission on Wartime Contracting, from now on, instead of soldiers, private military contractors will be disposing of improvised explosive devices, recovering killed and wounded personnel, downed aircraft and damaged vehicles, policing Baghdad's International Zone, providing convoy security, and clearing travel routes, among other security-related duties.
Inevitably, the empire(s) fought back. A million articles appeared that sought to brand "bloggers" as know-nothing kids in pyjamas living in their parents' basements. They were ridiculed and lampooned, even as their complaints about false information on WMDs, the role of al Qaida in Iraq, the death toll, were vindicated. Politicians attacked too. Dissenters were labelled as unpatriotic or useful idiots or whatever other insults could be found to cover their own culpability. Who could forget John Howard piously declaring, "If there's a demonstration, it does give some encouragement to the leadership in Iraq," and that "People who demonstrate and who give comfort to Saddam Hussein must understand that and must realise that..." Governments even attacked public servants they deemed enemies. In the US, CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame was outed after her husband criticised the Bush administration, while here, the Howard Government dishonestly smeared former intelligence analyst, Andrew Wilkie.
In his Tuesday night speech, Barack lied that the US was 'safer' as a result of the Iraq War. Interviewing War Hawk Tony Blair today on NPR's Morning Edition (link has text and audio), Steve Inskeep pointed out, "A little bit earlier this year, a former head of MI-5, British intelligence service, gave testimony about the war in Iraq in which she said that that war, or perhaps we should say the narrative of that war, radicalized many Muslims inside Britain and outside Britain to turn against the West. Did the decision go to war in Iraq, the inevitable decision to have Westerners killing Muslims, with the inevitable propaganda that would be made of that, turn out to be counterproductive?" Blair's promoting his new book What I Did For Bush: It Takes A Sex Slave. Steve Inskeep is referring to Eliza Manningham-Buller who testified to the Iraq Inquiry July 20. From that day's snapshot:
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: So you're saying you had evidence that the Iraq conflict, our involvment in the Iraq conflict was a motivation, a trigger, for people who were involved in the attacks in London in July 2005, who were going to Afghanistan to fight. Were there other attacks or planned attacks in which you had evidence that Iraq was a motivating factor?
Eliza Manningham-Buller: Yes. I mean, if you take the video wills that were retrieved on various occasions after various plots, where terrorists who had expected to be dead explained why they had done what they did, it features. It is part of what we call the single narrative, which is the view of some that everything the west was doing was part of a fundamental hostility to the Muslim world and to Islam, of which manifestations were Iraq and Afghanistan, but which pre-dated those because it pre-dated 9/11, but it was enhance by those events.
Immediately prior to her testiomny that day, a [PDF format warning] letter she sent to John Gieve (Home Office) was declassified [though some parts remain redacted]. Gieve was the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office at that time and the position provided oversight to MI5 (which is Military Intelligence, Section 5).
IRAQ: POSSIBLE TERRORIST RESPONSE TO A US ATTACK
We have been giving some thought to the possible terrorist consequences should the US, possibly with UK support, seek to topple Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. I thought that you might find it helpful to see our current assessment, together with an outline of our own preparations.
2. Since the end of the Gulf War Iraq has been implicated in a small number of murders of Iraqi oppositionists in the Middle East but only one terrorist plan directed against a Western target -- a planned car bomb attack on ex-President Bush in Kuwait in 1993. There is no credible intelligence that demonstrates that Iraq was implicated in planning the 11 September attacks.
3. We judge that the current period of heightened tension between Iraq and the US is unlikely to prompt Saddam to order terrorist strikes against Coalition interests. Even limited military action (for example, cruise missile attacks such as the those in response to the attempted murder of ex-President Bush) would be unlikely to prompt such a response. We assess that Saddam is only likely to order terrorist attacks if he perceives that the survival of his regime is threatened.
In the UK
4. If Saddam were to initiate a terrorist campaign, we assess that Iraqi capability to mount attacks in the UK is currently limited. We are aware of no Iraqi intelligence (DGI) officers based in the UK. There are up to DGI agents here who report on anti-regime activities. But most of these agents lack the inclination or capability to mount terrorist attacks. So if the DGI wished to mount attacks in the UK it would need to import teams from overseas. It is possible that some Palestinian groups based outside the UK might be willing to mount attacks in support of Iraq,
5. Nonetheless, in case Iraq should try to co-ordinate action by existing UK-based agents, or to import its own or a surrogate terrorist capability, we will be taking a number of steps over the coming months, including:
reviewing our knowledge of past and present DGI visiting case officers to identify and disrupt any increase in DGI activity;
putting in place arrangements to deal with (and capitalise on) any increase in defectors, volunteers or callers to the Service's public telephone number who might have relevant information. Experience during the Gulf War leads us to expect an increase in such contact with the public in the event of conflict;
with the police, maintaining coverage of the Palestinian community, some of whom, as during the Gulf War, may react adversely to any threat to Iraq.
6. You may recall that, at the time of the Gulf War, a number of suspected Iraqi sympathisers were detained pending deportation on grounds of national security. These included members of Iraqi support organisations, as well as individuals believed to be associated with Palestinian terrorist groups, such as the Abu Nidhal Organisation. We currently assess that the number of individuals in the UK who potentially pose sufficent threat to be subject to deportation or detnetion is small. We are currently reviewing the cases of those who could pose a threat to establish whether there might be grounds for action.
7. We believe that Middle Eastern countries would be the most likely location should Saddam order terrorist attacks on Western interests. Other locations, for instance SE Asia featured in attempted DGI co-ordinated attacks during the Gulf War and are thus also a possibility. We will, of course, continue to liaise closely with FCO colleagues to ensure they are in a position to brief missions if the situation develops.
Chemical or biological (CB) threat
8. There were media stories during the Gulf War suggesting that Iraq planned to mount CB terrorist attacks in Western countries, and a 1998 scare (arising from a tale put about by Iraqi emigres) that Saddam planned to send anthrax abroad in scent bottles. Given Iraq's documented CB capabilities, we can anticipate similar stories again.
9. Most Iraqi CB terrorist attacks have been assassination attempts against individuals, often emigres.
Iraq used chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war and also against civilian Kurds in 1988, but there is no intelligence that Iraq has hitherto planned or sought mass-casualty CB terrorist attacks. As with conventional terrorism, we assess that Saddam would only use CB against Western targets if he felt the survival of his regime was in doubt. In these circumstances, his preferred option would be to use conventional military delivery systems against targets in the region, rather than terrorism.
10. There have for some years been reports of contact between the Iraqi regime and Al Qa'ida about CB. But we have yet to see convincing intelligence that useful co-operation developed, or that Iraq provided genuine CB materials.
11. I am copying this letter to Stephen Wright, John Scarlett, Julian Miller and Tom McKane.
E L Manningham-Buller
Deputy Director General
The Iraq War did not make England safer, it did not make the US safer. Barack lied.
I thought it amounted to a defense of his presidency. He continues to strike me as a guy who thought he was elected for domestic reasons and so seems to resent how foreign affairs intrude on his time. His rhetoric on the two subjects has the feel of two different men -- on foreign policy, kind of tired and clichéd, written by a committee, but on domestic affairs, kind of zingy.
As he said in the speech, he was fulfilling a campaign pledge to get all combat troops out of Iraq by today. Unfortunately, it was a phony pledge -- the mission of the U.S. troops still in Iraq is, if anything, more dangerous today than it was yesterday. And so the core of the speech was hollow.
Meanwhile Xinhua reports on US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaking in Iraq yesterday and notes Gates claiming it is for history to determine the call on the Iraq War. Talk about kick the can. No, it is for us to determine. It is amazing that Barack bastardized "Que Sera Sera" in his speech Tuesday night and yet, while claiming the future belongs to "us," they won't to kick any evaluation far down the road. There's a reason for that and any good defense attorney can explain it to you. Let's say your client gets picked up for a DWI. If you have the trial quickly, you can get a judgment. It probably won't be one in favor of your client. If, however, you can postpone and postpone and postpone, your client can 'reform.' (As in, "Yes, two years ago my client was arrested for driving while intoxicated; however, since that time s/he has gone into rehab, joined a church s/he regularly attends and had no more run ins with the law.") The War Hawks -- that includes Robert Gates -- are really hoping that, between now and history's judgment, they can do something -- anything -- to mitigate their actions. Nothing will mitigate it. Laws were broken. The Constitution was shredded. Whatever happens to Iraq in the future, the US government broke laws and there is no happy spin for that. The US government launched an illegal war of aggression and that's not something you can wipe away. Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) weighs in on Gates here.
Dropping back to August 26th for this: " Ann Rubin (KSDK) reports some soldiers in Iraq are afraid their pay is going to be cut as a result of the creative terminology the spin is pushing. US House Rep Russ Carnahan tells Rubin, 'The bottom line is they're in a dangerous part of the world, but we've got to continue to do everything we can to be sure they get that support'." And again noting 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.)
This is a concern both for those serving in Iraq (and their families) and for some of those who have served who have been expressing dismay that service members might be left in Iraq -- an area they know themselves to be dangerous -- and not receive the higher pay (combat pay). 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 hidden 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.