Friday, September 24, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, another member of the US Congress says the Iraq War needs to end right now, the FBI raids activists home, the National Lawyers Guild issues an 88-page report about the attacks on political speech and action, Iraq becomes a topic at the United Nations, and more.
That's what we have to do. We should have done it a long time ago. Is it likely that there will be conflict when we leave? Yes. We set in motion forces that are irrevocable. You cannot simply launch a war against a country where there were already factions - Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds who were at odds with each other - and think that you can leave there without difficulties. That's going to happen no matter what. But the fact that the conflict that we helped to create is still quite alive does not justify staying there. War becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of continued war, unless you break the headlong momentum by getting out.
"What are they there for, if it's not combat? To monitor elections? To mediate religious disputes? Let's get them home," Frank said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "What the hell are they there for?"
Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said that designating the troops "non-combat" does not persuade insurgents not to shoot at them.
So that's two members of Congress on the record about the need for a real and immediate withdrawal. If, as most (including Joe Biden who is public and on the record about this) current and former US officials expect and//or suspect, US renegotiates an agreement/contract/treaty with Iraq to extend the US military presence beyond 2011, will the two of them object? Will other members of Congress join them?
Today UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that it was highly important that Iraq form a government "for stability and prosperity." Yesterday, Iraq's President Jalal Talabani spoke to the United Nations and, along with spin, he served up the talking point that all Iraqi officials appearing before the UN in the last few years repeat:
The most important issue his country is facing is ridding itself of the "burden" of Security Council resolutions adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, he said, calling for an end to the remaining restrictions in the field of disarmament, wrapping up outstanding contracts of the Oil-for-Food programme, and finding the appropriate mechanism to protect Iraqi money to replace the Development Fund for Iraq and the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Iraq.
Iraq's most pressing issue? That's the talking point the UN Assembly and Security Council here every year from the Iraqi officials. It's never true but they do love to repeat it. (The tag sale on Iraq's assests cannot really take place until the UN allows the puppet government complete autonomy.) Last December, the UN Security Council extended the Chapter VII arrangments through December of this year. This was first adopted by the UN Security Council in May of 2003. That's not Iraq's most pressing problem. The rise in violence is among Iraq's most pressing problems and many observers tie the rise into the continued political stalemate. Jalal doesn't. Many in the press WRONGLY call Nouri's continued occupation of the prime minister a "caretaker government." That is not factual. There is no basis for that. A caretake government would be one appointed by the United Nations. Chapter VII, as Ayad Allawi has been pointing out for nearly two months now, gives the UN Security Council the right to appoint a caretaker government. None has been appointed. Nour's term has expired. He is not a part of a caretake government.
Back to Talabani and his spin before the UN General Assembly [click, PDF format warning, here for his speech in full]:
This year has also witnessed the success of legislative elections held on 7 March 2010, with considerable Arab, regional and international interest. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq as well as the observers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the League of Arab States, the international community and civil society organizations all expressed their convictions that the elections had been transparent and fair. The principal political parties have been in continuous communication in order to hold a fruitful session of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, which will vote to elect a Speaker for the new Council of Representatives which will vote to elect a Speaker for the new Council of Representatives and President of the Republic of Iraq, after which, according to the Iraqi Constitution, the elected President will request the new Prime Minister to form the government. It is our hope that this new government will be formed as soon as possible, as any delay in its formation will negatively affect the security situation, reconstruction and prosperity.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "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 seventeen days with no government formed.
Hey, thanks everybody. Good evening. I know it's late. Many of you are calling from suites, perhaps other establishments, so let me run through a couple of things real quick. The Secretary did have her two bilaterals this evening, one with Foreign Minister Zebari of Iraq and the other with Foreign Minister Rassoul of Afghanistan. Let me briefly run through the topics of discussion. With Foreign Minister Zebari and Iraq, as you might imagine, the major topic of discussion was where Iraq stands on the formation -- government formation. The Secretary and minister agreed that this is becoming of critical importance and that we don't want to see Iraq drift and have a security vacuum result. They talked about the importance of Iraq's leaders stepping up and making decisions and forming a government. Ambassador Jim Jeffrey is significantly engaged in Baghdad in this effort. As you may recall, Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman has been to the region for multiple meetings, as has the Vice President. But the Secretary solicited some ideas from the foreign minister about how the United States will be helpful while making clear that ultimately, this has to be Iraq's decision to come to an agreement on forming a new government. They went through a handful of bilateral issues, but also finished the meeting by briefly touching on the peace process. The foreign minister commended the Secretary on the U.S. engagement on the Middle East process and hoped that a solution can be found so the parties will continue to pursue the direct negotiations that we started three weeks ago.
How effective her words were? Not at all. Hoshyar Zebari's been making the same statements himself. For months. I believe it's called preaching to the choir. May 1st, Lara Jakes (AP) reported, "Iraq's foreign minister chided the U.S. and Britain for not taking an active role in resolving his country's bitter election dispute, and accused Washington of being more concerned with sending home U.S. soldiers." In July, AFP and Lebanon's Daily Star reported that Zebari termed the stalemate "embarrassing." Those are just two examples. There are many, many more that can be provided. Equally true is that Hillary and Hoshyar Zebari have already had this conversation -- and issued a joint-statement and took questions from Elise Labbot (CNN) and Nihad Ali (Al Iraqiya Channel), see the July 13th snapshot.
Today Dina al-Shibeeb and Mustapha Ajbaili (Al Arabiya News Channel) report that Nouri is attempting to curry favor with Moqtada al-Sadr by making an offer to release prisoners if al-Sadr would support him as prime minister -- this according to Bahaa al-Araji, of al-Sadr's political bloc, who states that Moqtada al-Sadr rejected the bribe and that the al-Sadr bloc continues to support Adel Abdul Mehdi (Iraq's Shi'ite vice president) for the post of prime minister.
The violence also continued today in Iraq.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports three rocket attacks in Baghdad (including one on the Green Zone) in which one person was injured, a Mosul suicide bomber who took his own life and the life of 1 police officer and injuring two people and, dropping back to last night for the rest, mortar attacks on a Baghdad bridge (remember a few years back and the efforts to knock out bridges?) and a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the lives of two of the children of Anmar Taha and her husband Muhammed al Qassim and the lives of their two nephews while leaving both adults wounded. Reuters notes a Baghdad hand grenade attack which left three police officers injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing on a police car which left two police officers injured and, dropping back to last night, a Hawija rocket attack which left five people injured.
Thursday US President Barack Obama wasted everyone's time with another speech that repeatedly referenced himself, He also found time to (falsely) link Iraq to 9-11. What a War Whore he's turned out to be. The one-time media star couldn't even dominate this morning's headlines with his performance. Instead the news media was chasing after rumors about a politician from across the Atlantic Ocean: England's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Gerri Peev (Daily Mail) reports "Clegg will voice a thinly veiled condemnation of the Iraq war" in his speech. Ian Dunt (Politics) quotes from the expected speech: "But our approach will also be hard-headed and realistic. In recent years, we have learned - sometimes the hard way - that democracy cannot be created by diktat. Freedom cannot be commanded into existence." Jon Swaine (Telegraph of London) adds, "While he will not use the word "sorry", Mr Clegg will come close to apologising on the world stage for the war, which he believes was in breach international law, in a speech to the UN General Assembly." The Edmonton Journal looks at that quote and states, "The passage clearly suggest regret over Britain's role in the war against Iraq, which was not explicitly backed by the UN Security Council." Instantly forgettable, Barack's speech is already upstaged in the news cycle and England's second-in-charge is geared to show leadership as the world watches. Tom Peterkin (Scotsman) reports that, in his speech today, Clegg declared that democracy is not something which can be imposed.
This morning, while posturing as the earnest student of empirical investigation, Webb prefaced his hostile line of questioning of witness Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki saying Webb is concerned about protecting the "credibility of our [VA] programs."
I was hoping Shinseki would pull out a can of aerosol composed of dioxin [tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD)] and offer to spray it around the Committee room and see if anyone of the august senators had a presumptive problem with it.
Chuck Palazzo (Veterans Today) notes that Senators Bernie Sanders and Jay Rockefeller stood up for veterans in the hearing. Having attended the hearing yesterday, I am noting Committee Chair Daniel Akaka also needs to be noted -- he is a soft spoken person and has to maintain a role as Chair but even with both of those things, he still made very clear in his opening where he stood. Senator Patty Murray made clear that she supported veterans, Mark Begich appeared to be coming out in support ("appeared" because I really don't know him, his words indicated support but I don't know his record and I don't know him). The strongest voice in the hearing was Senator Roland Burris. You can see Ava's report or you can watch the hearing which is at Palazzo's link and which is also online here at the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs website. David Rogers (Politico) notes:
In comments later, Webb told POLITICO that he would like to return more decision-making power to Congress itself, rather than leave so much discretion to a single Cabinet secretary. And Webb said he was also attracted to a proposal by Principi to take a more incremental approach in the case of common diseases -- and put emphasis on medical care before disability payments.
Now we're going to talk numbers so that we all get just what a s**t Jim Webb is. The Bush tax cuts were set to expire. Webb supports extending all of them -- not just the middle class and working class and working poor but also the top earners in the country. Paul Krugman (New York Times) explained why that was such a bad idea last month:
What's at stake here? According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to following the Obama proposal, would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the sake of comparison, it took months of hard negotiations to get Congressional approval for a mere $26 billion in desperately needed aid to state and local governments.
And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that's the least of it: the policy center's estimates say that the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. Take a group of 1,000 randomly selected Americans, and pick the one with the highest income; he's going to get the majority of that group's tax break. And the average tax break for those lucky few -- the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year -- would be $3 million over the course of the next decade.
Now it's tacky and appalling to put a dollar amount on the issue of care -- especially needed care resulting from the government playing reckless with human lives -- but Leo Shane III (Stars & Stripes) reports, "According to VA estimates, the move could cost more than $13 billion in compensation payouts in the next 18 months." $680 billion. Wow. Kind of dwarfs the $13 billion figure, doesn't it? Webb has his priorities and they just don't appear to include veterans.
Police preparation for mass assemblies routinely involves infiltration and spying on activist groups, sometimes years in advance, including the use of agents provocateurs. Time and time again, millions of dollars have been obtained by police departments for personnel and equipment at large events justified by confidential informant testimony that large numbers of 'anarchists' are planning to attend and engage in violence. Closer examination of the facts often reveals the falsity of such allegations: numerous police infrormants, many with criminal backgrounds, admit when later questioned that activist groups they infiltrated never planned any violent activities. Indeed millions more have been spent paying damages to the demonstrators victimized by these tactics.
New anti-terrorism legislation and prosecution practices have resulted in individuals being charged with conspiracy to riot merely by virtue of having helped organize a protest at which other individuals unknown to them were arrested. As evidence of conspiracy to riot, the government cites such First Amendment protected activities as attending meetings, writing about protests, organizing protests, and engaging in rhetorical or politically charged speech.
Faulty intelligence gathering and grossly attenuated criminal charges are accompanied by additional strategies to quell dissent. Asserting the need to defend against terrorism and protect national security, the government targets leaders of social and political movements, employs grand juries to search for evidence of political affiliation, stigmatizes groups of activists, and uses the mass media to denigrate demonstrators, reinforce negative stereotypes or publicize high-profile arrests on charges which are frequently later dropped for lack of evidence.
We will note the report in more detail next week. Heidi co-hosts WBAI's Law and Disorder Radio (10:00 a.m. EST Mondays -- also plays on other stations around the country throughout the week) with fellow attorneys Michael Ratner and Michael Smith. The report may be discussed on one of the shows in the next weeks and, if so, we will note it then as well. On today's raids, Jacob Wheeler (The UpTake -- link has video) speaks with Mick Kelly who was among the activists whose homes were raided today.
Mick Kelly: The FBI has raided my home. Right now there's about ten, twelve FBI agents rummaging through my papers, documents. They've confiscated computers, they've taken my passport, etc.
Jacob Wheeler: And we're in the Hard Times Cafe in Cedar-Riverside and your apartment is just upstairs from the cafe, right?
Mick Kelly: That's correct.
Jacob Wheeler: So there are agents upstairs right now?
Mick Kelly: That's correct.
Jacob Wheeler: How many?
Mick Kelly: Ten to twelve.
Jacob Wheeler: When did they arrive?
Mick Kelly: Several hours ago.
Jacob Wheeler: And what did they say -- Approximately what time? Any guess?
Mick Kelly: I'm going to say 7:30.
Jacob Wheeler: Okay. What did they tell you? What interaction did you have with them?
Mick Kelly: Well I wasn't there. I was at work.
Jacob Wheeler: Okay.
Mick Kelly: And I received a call that they were there. They came in -- my understanding is they came in guns drawn, kicked the door open, smashed a fish tank and proceeded to execute a search warrant.
Mick notes he is an antiwar activists and that " I see this as harassment of anti-war activists and those who stand in solidarity with those who are fighting for freedom and justice around the world." Mick was one of the organizers of the protests at the 2008 GOP convention. Ahndi Fridell (Reuters) reports the FBI is admitting to searching "eight homes in Chicago and Minnesota" today and claiming it is "terrorism" related -- or adjacent. Or maybe just a sleepy suburb of. They're not really sure as is evidenced by the fact that eight homes were raided (or the FBI admits to raiding at least eight homes) and not one arrest was made. Not one arrest was made. That's a key point. Along with Mick Kelly, one of the eight homes known to be raided belongs to Jess Sundin. Sarah Laskow (Washington Independent) reports: "Sundin was 'a principal leader of the mass antiwar march of 10,000 on the opening day of the Republican National Convention two years ago,' and Kelly has said he would march on the Democratic National Convention if it were held in Minneapolis this year, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune."
Yesterday's snapshot noted the Cat Food Commission and how Ruth credited Lambert (Corrente) with coining and/or popularizing that phrase but there were no links to either Ruth or Lambert. To read one of Lambert's most recent posts on the efforts by the White House to attack Social Security, click here. This morning, I noted David Swanson's "Changing and Facilitating" (War Is A Crime) but I screwed up the link. My apologies. Click here to read the piece.: Excerpt from Swanson's article (based on a speech he gave):
Our representatives strive to represent three groups of people: the ones who give them money, the ones who produce cable television news shows, radio shows, and newspapers, and the ones in charge of their political parties including especially the president when he is the leader of their party. In George Mason's view the president was to execute the will of the Congress, and no power of the Congress was more important than that of impeachment. Now Republicans will only impeach Democratic presidents, and Democrats will only impeach Democratic judges. And the executive is largely freed to tell the legislature how to do its job, rather than the reverse. When Congress is too craven and cowardly to impeach someone or isn't sure what they've done wrong, do you know what it used to do? It used to subpoena people. And it used to take that Capitol Police force that now does such a fine job of beating up peace activists in hallways, and it used to send the police to pick up witnesses who'd been subpoenaed. And when people testified but refused to respectfully answer questions, or acted like our recent attorney general Alberto Gonzales who said "I do not recall" four times a minute during his testimony, do you know what congressional committees would do? They would hold that person in contempt? And do you know where they would hold them in contempt? In a jail cell. During 2007 and 2008 Democratic committees subpoenaed dozens of top members of a Republican administration, including the vice president and the secretary of state, all of whom told Congress to go Dick Cheney itself. So Congress asked the Justice Department to enforce its subpoenas, and the Justice Department said no. So Congress took it to court and later won. But with one weird and partial exception, not a single one of those subpoenas has been reissued and enforced by either the new Justice Department or by the committees themselves. In fact, the House Committee on Oversight has been basically put out of its misery, and the judiciary and other committees have crawled out of sight beneath the emperor's throne. Congress just impeached and tried a judge for getting lap dances and frozen shrimp, and earlier this year impeached a judge for groping people, but it leaves a judge in a lifetime seat who wrote secret laws authorizing aggressive war and torture. Impeachment has been reserved for sex and Democrats, and the subpoena has gone the way of the dodo bird -- at least unless Republicans get Congress back.
Why don't we ever talk about the problem of Congress handing all power over to presidents? Because both political parties are happy about it, and anything they both want left alone is not news. We have a substantial right to free speech in this country, but a free press is another story altogether. A small cartel of mega media corporations has been given our public airwaves without compensation, and the more information we get from them the dumber we are. When Americans believed lies about the urgent need to attack Iraq, they believed them more depending which media outlet they got most of their news from. I'm not naming any names.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), Jackie Calmes (New York Times), Tom Gjleten (NPR) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) join Gwen around the table while Dan Balz (Washington Post) files a report from Des Moines on the speech Sarah Palin makes to Iowa's GOP. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is still "Who Exactly Are the Bums?"This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Debra Carnahan, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Leslie Sanchez and Tara Setmayer on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is on college tuition -- its cost and its worth is debated. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast airs Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings -- and in some markets it may explore US combat in Afghanistan, the US role in institutionalizing Afghan corruption; abuse and mistreatment of US seniors at home-based senior centers, Jon Meacham discussing "superlativism" and more. If you saw that last week (pledge drives and special programming meant not all PBS stations that air the show did last week), then you can look for Nial Ferguson talking about the budget, the Tea Party, the jobless recovery and Human Rights Watch's Anneke van Woudenberg discussing the Congo. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
A Relentless Enemy Lara Logan's report takes viewers to the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where she and her crew came under enemy fire from fighters who the U.S. military says keep coming from their sanctuary in Pakistan.
Islamic Center Scott Pelley looks at the national debate that has flared up around Ground Zero in New York City over opposition to building an Islamic center and prayer room nearby.
Cool Brees Steve Kroft profiles Drew Brees, the MVP quarterback who led the New Orleans Saints to their first-ever Super Bowl victory, just a few years after the city was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.