Thursday, September 9, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, Nouri expresses concern . . . for inanimate objects, and more.
File it under "Now that the last crazy has spoken . . ." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports that Iraq's should-be-former-prime-minister-because-his-term-expired-months-ago Nouri al-Maliki wants "the U.S. government to intervene to prevent the burning" of the Koran by a church in Florida. He wants the US government to intervene? As noted at length yesterday, political speech is protected speech, protected by the US Constitution. So crazy Nouri doesn't know what the hell he's talking about -- as usual. But grasp that the US puppet refused international calls to do a DAMN THING about the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community. Or about Iraq's Jewish community (which supposedly has 8 members currently). Or about Iraq's Christian community. Or about Iraqi women. Human life doesn't matter to Nouri but printed reproductions (that would be books) require a government ignoring its own laws and killing political speech? The puppet is insane. (At The New Republic, Isaac Chotiner tries to bring some reality to the topic.) Let's grab some more laughs before we address the serious topics of the day. If you do press criticism, it might be a good idea to have your facts right. Alex Pareene has always been trash as he demonstrated with his 2006 attack on Cindy Sheehan. Wait, we have to back this up. Columbia Journalism Review allegedly knows something about press criticism. Allegedly. Liz Cox Barrett, what the hell happened? It's so fashionable to kick Maureen Dowd around that facts no longer matter? Is that it? Liz recommends Alex "see Alex Pareene's solid critique of Dowd's column at Salon." Really? Here's Alex's opening (Salon): "Award-winning New York Times Op-Ed columnist Maureen Dowd wrote a political column about Barack Obama's speech last night! Of course the column had to be finished in time for this morning's paper, so it was obviously written in 10 minutes or so yesterday afternoon, before the speech was actually delivered." Really? Maureen Dowd did a column on Barack's speech? Maureen wrote a column on the remodeled Oval Office. "Not-So-Magic Carpet Ride" is not a column on Barack's speech. As sad as it is that Alex Pareene couldn't tell that, it's even sadder that Liz Cox Barrett and CJR couldn't tell the difference and actually hailed his little slam. Alex is really good, by the way, at slamming women. It's what he lives to do online and people should keep that in mind before promoting his sexism. If Maureen Dowd is as bad as Liz and CJR seem to think, why do they have to lie about what she actually wrote in order to prove her wrong? We won't attempt to explain deadlines to Alex (or Liz), the ship has obviously sailed on that for both of them. And, Liz and CJR, if you're so concerned about who's writing about Barack's Ira War speech, why haven't you highlighted any of the writing? For example, at IPS, Phyllis Bennis explores the realities of Iraq in "What We Didn't Hear from Obama on Iraq" (and link is to her text article but there are also two videos of Bennis analyzing -- on Fox News and the Real News Network -- the situation in Iraq):
But what he left out was more significant. Just on the cost of war, while acknowledging the overall cost, and speaking separately about job loss and the economic crisis in the U.S., he didn't make the crucial link between the two. He didn't say, for instance, that the cost of keeping 50,000 troops in Iraq another year and a half, more than $12 billion, could instead pay for 240,000 new green union jobs back home -- and still have funds left over to begin paying for real reconstruction and reparations in Iraq. What else didn't we hear? We didn't hear that the 50,000 troops in Iraq now ARE still combat troops -- even if the Pentagon has "re-missioned" them for training and assistance. We heard about the 4th Stryker Brigade leaving Iraq, but not about the 3,000 new combat troops from Fort Hood in Texas, from the Third Armored Cavalry -- combat troops -- who just deployed TO Iraq 10 days ago.
CJR wants to ridicule Maureen Dowd for her "Iraq speech" column which she didn't write. And guess what? The Kicker, CJR's blog? It never covered the speech either. The hypocrites of CJR -- what would the wacky web be without them?
Today's big story? Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports what "a close ally to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki" is saying -- Minster of Defense Abdul Qader Obeidi has stated that Iraq will require a US military presence (in "some form") "at least until 2016 to provide training, support and maintenance for the vast quantity of military equipment and weaponry that Iraq is buying from America" and that they will require assistance on "intelligence gather" after 2011 as well as help with their air force "at least until 2020." Already some try to pooh-pah the statements and insist they are in keeping with the SOFA -- no, they are not. Meanwhile Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation via NPR) questions US Vice President Joe Biden's "top aide for national security" Tony Blinken:
Since Iraq might, indeed, fall apart, I asked Blinken, are there any conceivable circumstances in which President Obama might renege on the plan to withdraw the remaining 49,000 US troops from Iraq by the end of 2011? What if Iraq falls back into violence and civil war? In response, Blinken called it a "hypothetical" question and he refused to comment. He added that the remaining US forces in Iraq -- two of whom were killed yesterday by a rogue Kurdish soldier -- are "fully prepared to deal with any contingencies that develop." Though both President Obama's own commitment and the terms of the US-Iraq treaty negotiated in 2008 by President Bush call for the removal of all US forces by the end of 2011, Blinken would not say definitively that the troops would leave no matter what. I don't know what Blinken's definition of hypothetical is, but it isn't hypothetical to say that there are no circumstances that could lead Obama to halt the withdrawal or, even worse, to reverse it and add more troops.
Yesterday Iraq's political stalemate hit the six month mark. 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 six months and one day and where's the government?
Reports of 'violent verbal arguments' between the Iraqiya bloc leader, Iyad Allawi, and Saleh al-Mutlaq, who heads the National Dialogue Front, have caused many in the Iraqi media to question the bloc's ability to maintain its unity and continuity.
Mutlaq's party is one of the key members of the Iraqiya bloc, holding 22 of the 91 parliamentary seats they won in the March elections. Mutlaq has recently become a target for Nouri al-Maliki, who is seeking to detach him and his party from Iraqiya by offering him a prominent position in a new government headed by the State of Law coalition.
When nothing takes place, when there's no movement or progress on an issue, rumors abound. Qassim Al-kaabi (Asharq Al-Awsat) notes, "Sources inside Al-Iraqiya List, which is led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, have asserted that the media leaks claiming that US Vice President Joe Biden succeeded in persuading Arab and non-Arab countries to stop backing Al-Iraqiya are untrue and baseless and they also called baseless the reports attributed to a leading figure in the State of Law Coalition [SLC], which is led by outgoing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, that the latter cited Biden for these remarks and that the countries responded positively apart from Saudi Arabia."
In news of violence, Reuters notes a Baquba home invasion in which the wife of a police officer was beheaded, a Muqdadiya home invasion in which Sunni Cleric Jabbar Saleh al-Jibouri, a Mosul grenade attack which injured five people and a Mosul raid on suspected insurgents in which 1 suspect and 1 police officer were killed. Dropping back to yesterday, Laith Hammoudi and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Lt Col was stabbed to death in Baquba while he was directing traffic and a Baquba home bombing which claimed the lives of 2 women.
Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports that the former Camp Cropper (now Al Karkh Prison) has seen a prison break as "four non-convicted detainees" escaped and this "coincides with the disappearance of the prison manager Omar Khamis Al Dulaimi." Shashank Bengali (McClatchy Newspapers) explains that the prison was controlled by US forces: "The escape was the latest setback to U.S. forces as they hand over security operations to the Iraqis." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) adds, "The prison break was the latest in a series of troubling developments here since President Obama declared the end of the American combat mission last week and celebrated the reduction of American troops to below 50,000 for the first time since the invasion in 2003. Attacks by insurgents, including one that drew Americans into a firefight on Sunday, the killing of two American soldiers by an Iraqi soldier at a base north of Baghdad and now the escape have bolstered a sense of unease here at a time when violence is spiking and the country's politics remains deadlocked."
[Socialist Worker]: WHAT IS U.S. policy with regards to Turkey and the Kurds? Why does the U.S. seem to be hostile to Kurds in Turkey, yet allied with the Kurds in Iraq?
Jake Hess: WELL, THE U.S. doesn't really have a policy toward the Kurds as a people; they're viewed as a minority in the various countries they live in. The U.S. presumably looks at the Roma of Europe in the same way, for example. The U.S. record on Kurdish issues in disgraceful in both Iraq and Turkey. Currently, the U.S. is trying to maintain good relations with Iraqi Kurds, as the area under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government is one of the few reasonably peaceful, stable and pro-American areas in Iraq. (As an example of how safe it is, I even hitchhiked when I was there.) For their part, Iraqi Kurds generally support the U.S. project in Iraq and want the U.S. to stay. They're afraid a U.S. withdrawal could result in the emergence of a new dictator, ethnic war spreading to the Kurdish areas and any number of other undesirable outcomes. The Iraqi Kurds are a traumatized people, and they want to prevent another disaster from occurring. It hasn't always been like this, of course. The U.S. has betrayed Iraqi Kurds several times. For example, in the 1970s, the Nixon administration encouraged Iraqi Kurds to revolt against the Baghdad government in order to help give the Shah of Iran leverage in a border dispute with Iraq. Nixon and Kissinger poured $16 million worth of secret aid into the conflict and armed the Kurds with Soviet weapons distributed by Israel. The U.S. abruptly cut off the funding after Iran and Iraq settled their dispute, leaving the Kurds vulnerable to an Iraqi crackdown that ended with thousands of deaths and some 200,000 refugees, according to the Pike Committee Report, which added that the Kurds might have reached an agreement with Baghdad, had the U.S. not encouraged them to hold out. As is well known, the U.S. went on to support Saddam Hussein's vicious repression of the Kurds in the 1980s and 1990s, leading to unbelievable slaughter and hardship, but the people who were responsible for these things during the Reagan and first Bush administrations remembered that they loved the Kurds of Iraq when it came time to invade again in 2003. Some people express their love in ways that the rest of us find difficult to understand. The U.S. supplied Turkey with the majority of the weaponry it used to depopulate Kurdish villages and commit other human rights violations in the 1990s, as the Arms Trade Resource Center and Human Rights Watch have documented in outstanding reports. Despite the fact that they have never attacked U.S. citizens of the U.S. itself, the Bush administration deemed the PKK a "common enemy" of Iraq, Turkey and the U.S. in 2007, and the U.S. has provided Turkey with actionable intelligence on PKK positions across the border. As the recently departed U.S. ambassador to Turkey, James Jeffrey, pointed out, Washington and Ankara are currently exploring ways to deepen their common war against the PKK, including through new arms sales. Jeffrey said, "We're trying to get as much as possible for Turkey as soon as possible."
There's much more of interest in the interview but we went with the section on Iraq. Of interest to the Kurds in Iraq is the disputed (and oil-rich) region of Kirkuk which both the KRG and the government or 'government' out of Baghdad claims. Long forgotten is that a census was supposed to take plaace and a referendum on the issue of Kirkuk. Allegedly the long delayed census will take place next month -- and Nouri and company insist that is the case whether or not a prime minister has been picked. Gilbert Gatehouse reported from the region on Tuesday's The World (PRI -- link has audio and text):
GATEHOUSE: And, whether the Iraqis here like it or not, that is exactly what the Americans are going to do, by the end of next year. For the moment it all seems to be working terribly well. We've got Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen patrolling these villages together and hanging out with the local kids. The question there is, what happens when the Americans take themselves out of this equation and leave the Arabs and the Kurds to keep the peace between themselves on their own. I meet Ibrahim Jibrail in the house of the village "mukhtar," or leader. Jibrail wears the traditional baggy Kurdish tunic and a turban.
GATEHOUSE: He lived through Saddam Hussein's attempt at ethnic cleansing and he says that if the American soldiers leave, that cooperation we've seen could easily falter, and the conflict between Arabs and Kurds could break out again. The rapid reduction in the number of American troops in Iraq has been accompanied by a show of almost unshakeable optimism, at least in public, on the part of the US military and the State Department. And yet, their outgoing overall military commander here, General Raymond Odierno, said recently that UN forces might be needed to keep the peace between the Arabs and the Kurds after the US fully withdraws at the end of next year. The commanding officer in charge of Kirkuk, Colonel Larry Swift, is more cautious.
LARRY SWIFT: Political problems, absolutely. We've got them right now. Plenty of them. The issue has been, and will continue to be, are Kirkuk's problems going to remain in the political realm. I think it's going to be an extraordinary challenge for those inside the provincial council in the government of Iraq and the [SOUNDS LIKE] Kurd Regional Government, and in the State Department to sort these things out. But I think everyone agrees that if it spills over to any other realm, everyone's going to lose.
GATEHOUSE: The trouble is, Kirkuk and its surrounding area sits on a sea of oil. And with so much historical baggage, without the Americans to keep the two sides apart, the fear is that the Arabs and the Kurds could decide that the only way to resolve those problems is through a return to conflict. For The World, I'm Gilbert Gatehouse, Kirkuk.
Because they always whore, the New York Times' Sarah Lyall declares Tony Blair a success despite the fact that his book isn't. She wants you to know that it's a 'hit!' because it will be number 3 on the paper's best seller list September 19th. But the paper's 'best seller' list is a bit like the Billboard chart in the pre-sound scan era and they forget to tell you that. In fact, everyone looks the other way on that and maybe it's time to take down the paper's chart once and for all? There's no real reason for their selective 'survey' to begin with in this day and time when scans as point of sale can give you an accurate accounting to begin with. Lyall finds it amusing that Tony Blair LIES in his book, grabbing a scene from a movie and passing it off as his own life. That's not amusing, that's indicative of the b.s. book he's written. P.S. She wants to insist Blair must be popular because he won three elections. Whores never worry about facts. Labour's own polling -- which I am highly familiar with, to put it mildly -- demonstrated how Tony has fallen. If she couldn't get ahold of those figures, she should have checked public polling which has repeatedly found the same unpopularity for Tony. But whores don't like facts so they ignore polls and instead find apologists who will say what they want them to say. Equally true, Israel is far from the paper's only twisted loyalties issues when it comes to their 'reporters.' What the New York Whores underplay, Samira Shackle (New Statesman) takes seriously and notes of Blair's claim to have never seen The Queen (maybe his ghost writer should be asked about viewing the film?), Shackle notes, "So what's the explanation, then? Telepathy? Insight? Bugging?" James Denselow (Huffing Post) argues:
Tony Blair's certainty of historical vindication in Iraq can only be challenged by a people's history of the war. In interviews accompanying the release of his book Tony Blair has repeated that history will ultimately judge him on Iraq. Meanwhile on the same week that U.S. combat mission 'ended' for the second time in Iraq, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said that gauging success in the country will 'really require a historian's perspective'. Yet there is a danger that an elite's history written by those responsible for the Iraq adventure can create its own reality.
However, it is precisely because of the long, heroic tradition of left-wing anti-imperialism that I tend to get a bit bitchy when it comes to the contemporary record, which hardly measures up. When I hear that United For Peace and Justice, the major antiwar coalition controlled by Communist party types, has basically dissolved itself – at a time when the US is fightingtwo and a half wars, with a third in the making – I tend to suspect they're just not that into it, as the saying goes. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that their hero, President Obama, is the one fighting the wars now, and without George W. Bush to demonize anymore, the fight has gone out of them.
Be that as it may, the American radical movement has been in the front lines of the antiwar movement in this country ever since World War I, when radical and socialist newspapers were closed down by the tyrant Wilson, and Eugene Debs was jailed for speaking out against the slaughter. Back then, the Socialist party took the lead, staging antiwar demonstrations and denouncing the conflict as a capitalist scheme to divide up the world amongst the imperial powers. The war, they explained, was just an inter-imperialist feud over how to divide up the colonial spoils, and a competition for foreign markets that had turned violent. In this they were absolutely correct, but it was only after the war that the nation began to see their point.
Woodrow Wilson, whose prissy intellectualism and rhetorical devotion to "self-determination" and "democracy" won over the liberals over at The New Republic, was the first of the "humanitarian" interventionists, albeit unfortunately not the last. He dressed up his war aims in such highfalutin' phrases that one would have thought he and his armies were angels of mercy, or perhaps college professors intent on teaching the world how to live in peace: lots of liberals fell for it, and so did the American people -- but not for long.