Tuesday, November 9, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues with a meetup finding no-shows and seeing walkouts, a female Iraqi MP wonders why women aren't being represented in the process, Robert Gates explains the US is happy to stay in Iraq beyond 2011, veterans suffering from PTSD are not getting the treatment and care they need, and more.
We'll start with war and politics and games. Last Friday, Scott Horton (Antiwar Radio) interviewed Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan. For the excerpt, they're discussing Cindy Sheehan's Al Jazeera column "US: Myth of the two party system:"
Scott Horton: Right and it asks the question in the subheadline: "Would America look much different if Republican John McCain had beaten Democrat Barack Obama to become president?" And so what do you think? How do you measure that?
Cindy Sheehan: Well I don't think it would look that much different because it sure doesn't look much different when we have a Democrat Barack Obama then when George Bush was president except that many things have gotten worse. Unemployment's gotten worse, the foreclosure crisis has become worse, the wars have gotten worse, he's tripled troop strength to Afghanistan, the drone bombings in Pakistan have gone up 300% in real numbers in the less than 2 years that Barack Obama's been president, he's declared himself judge, juror and excutioner over any American citizen without a fair trial. I mean, it's just -- I can't really think how things could be much worse if McCain was president. And then you have to think, too, if McCain had won the presidency, which of course he wasn't supposed to win, but if he had won the presidency, there theoretically would have been an opposition Congress and there theoretically would have been an opposition in the grassroots movement. We might have been able to rekindle some kind of antiwar movement if John McCain had won. But now, Barack Obama and the Democrats, their purpose, I think, is to kill these social, antiwar movements, to co-opt them and to just render them irrelevant and ineffective and they've been very good at doing that.
Scott Horton: Well, you know, if you look at the recent past and how, say, the Democrats took the House in the first place in 2006, it seems like the principle of endless warfare always outranks even the interests of the Democratic Party itself. John V. Walsh, at CounterPunch, did excellent work on the fact that Rahm Emanuel from his position in the House of Representatives worked to undermine every anti-war Democrat in the primaries in 2006 and support the pro-war Democrat. And in every case where he succeeded in doing so, the pro-war Democrat lost the general against the Republican and the anti-war Democrats that he failed to defeat in the primaries all won. But they wanted as few anti-war voices in the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives as they could possibly get. They're determined from the get-go to betray what they promise their constitutents which is that, "Oh yeah, it'll look like Daily Kos or something around here once we're in power."
Cindy Sheehan: Well and the thing is too with these recent elections is that there were still a few people who were very outspoken and openly anti-war in Congress and two of those people were defeated. Alan Grayson -- whom we both know is not perfect but he was a voice -- an anti-war voice -- and Russ Feingold. And they were both defeated. And I just think it is the plan of the regime to, more and more, the parties become almost indistinguishable from each other. But they still serve a purpose -- they serve a purpose where the Republicans might be able to come in now and extend the tax cuts which, you know, we can argue about that, but they could be able to invade Iran now, could be able to just push harsher austerity measures here in the United States where the Democratic Congress would have gotten more flack for that but now there's Republicans and that's what their Republican base put them in to do and now Barack Obama can say, "I didn't want to do it but the Republicans made me." And then the Republicans can conversely also say, "Well we wanted to reform the health care legislation but the president vetoed it." So they just play, they play this game to support each other, support the establishment, support the elites, while they keep robbing us because most of the people in our class, they believe that there is a difference between the parties, that Barack Obama really would do good if he could. But for the last two years, he had a super majority and they didn't end the wars or pass any progressive legislation. But they still blamed the Republicans even though the Republicans were in a distinct minority for the last two years.
Playing games? Anne Gearan (AP) breaks the news this morning that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated publicly today in Kuala Lumpur that the US military may stay in Iraq beyond 2011. She quotes him stating, "We're ready to have that discussion if and when they want to raise it with us." Donna Miles (Defense Dept's press department) adds, "But Gates said he wouldn't expect such a request, at least until the Iraqis have selected a president, prime minister and speaker of the council of representatives and made ministerial-level appointments." You can put that with the remarks made by US State Dept spokesperson Philip J. Crowley said October 25th:
Well, we have a Status of Forces Agreement and a strategic framework. The Status of Forces Agreement expires at the end of next year, and we are working towards complete fulfillment of that Status of Forces Agreement, which would include the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of next year. The nature of our partnership beyond next year will have to be negotiated. On the civilian side, we are committed to Iraq over the long term. We will have civilians there continuing to work with the government on a range of areas -- economic development, rule of law, civil society, and so forth. But to the extent that Iraq desires to have an ongoing military-to-military relationship with the United States in the future, that would have to be negotiated. And that would be something that I would expect a new government to consider. [. . .] Should Iraq wish to continue the kind of military partnership that we currently have with Iraq, we're open to have that discussion."
And with public remarks made by US Vice President Joe Biden and former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and . . . October 27th the Christian Science Monitor's editorial board urged Barack to prepare the Congress for the possibility that the US may remain in Iraq and the editorial board noted that "many experts predict Iraq will soon ask Mr. Obama to extend the time for US forces to stay, not only to protect the nation's fledgling democracy but to help Iraq survive as a nation in a hostile neighborhood. Iraq is far behind the schedule set in the 2008 security pact with the United States to bolster its military and police. Its ability to defend its borders and its oil fields -- both of which are critical to US interests -- is years away. And there is much doubt in Washington about the US State Department's ability to take over the American military's role in managing key security aspects of Iraq, such as Kurdish-Arab friction or forming new police forces." Better question: Are the people prepapred?
The SOFA may be followed to the "t" and not renegotiated. It may also be extended. US forces may remain in Iraq past 2011 -- something Gates, Crowley and Biden have all voiced this year -- all serving in the current administration. Something Barack alluded to as candidate but few have been listening apparently. Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) has been noting the various statements and sleights of hand and points out today, "Though President Obama made much of the fake ends to the Iraq War in August, some 50,000 US troops remain on the ground, and despite being formally renamed 'non-combat' troops they continue to engage in combat missions and receive combat pay."
Again, Saturday we noted: "Matt Chittumm (Roanoke Times) reports members of the Virginia National Guard will deploy to Iraq in the new year. Cindy Clayton (Virginian-Pilot) explains that it will be approximately 850 members of the state's National Guard who will be active June 1st and 'The order calls for 240-day tours of duty, but the mobilization could be adjusted, the release says.' Wow. Even if the mobilization isn't adjusted, that would put them in Iraq past the alleged end of 2011 departure. If you don't do math and are extremely gullible, you to can pretend like the White House is invested in getting all troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011." Yesterday Andrew Tilghman (Army Times) reported that second in charge of US forces in Iraq, Lt Gen Robert Cone declared today, "The current brigade roation of one-year sets will continue. We have analyzed it, and what we're telling all units is to plan on a 12-month rotation over there and I think that's prudent." He thinks that's prudent. Who will ask why?
No extension is possible without a government in Iraq to ask it of. Ben Birnbaum (Washington Times) reminds, "Meanwhile, in the northern Kurdish city of Irbil, top figures from Iraq's major parties met behind closed doors Monday in a bid to break the political deadlock that has gripped the country for eight months. The three-day talks begin as the Iraqi Parliament prepares to resume work Thursday, following an order by the country's Supreme Court."
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "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 eight months and one day and still counting.
Today, meetings continued. Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reminds, "Leading up to Monday's meeting, officials had said they were close to completing an agreement, but remarks made by a number of the leaders indicated that they have yet to address key sticking points that remain unresolved ahead of this week's parliament session." And Raheem Salman and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) point out, "If they fail to strike a deal, the stalemate could drag on for months." Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports the US is pressuring Kurds to step aside regarding the presidency so that someone from Iraqiya can be president -- Fadel names US Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain (in person in Baghdad) and US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden -- and that Nouri "is trying to garner the backing he needs [from Iraqi politicians] to keep his post without ceding any of his power. Maliki emerged as the likeliest candidate for the top job in the new government when he secured the support of the Sadrists, a populist Shiite political movement opposed to the U.S. presence here." BBC News reports that Allawi and Tareq al-Hashemi did not show for today's meet up (al-Hashemi is also a member of Iraqiya as well as Iraq's Sunni Vice President) and that "[a]nother issue still to be resolved is whether parliament will meet on Thursday as previously announced." Sammy Ketz (AFP) reports that Iraq's Shi'ite Vice President, Adel Abdel Mehdi, walked out of today's meeting. Alsumaria TV reports that MP Saifya Al Suhail spoke out about the absence of women present in the deal making and that she stated, "A democratic Iraq cannot be built without women contribution to the political decision." Mazin Yahya (AP) adds, "Producing a deal by Thursday's scheduled parliamentary session will be difficult and while legislators have watched other deadlines come and go, there is a marked sense of urgency about meeting this court-appointed deadline to hold the session." So, reports indicate, day two was actually less productive than day one since all players were not present and no big announcement was made. When this was originally planned, it was thought it would be three days with main principles participating for the first two days only -- during which time, it was promoted, all the big points would be ironed out. That does not appear to have happened. Especially when Alsumaria TV is reporting that Iraqiya stated today "that the possibility of withdrawing is still open".
CNN reports, "About three dozen survivors of last month's brutal attack on a Baghdad church have found refuge in France, where they have been given temporary status as asylum seekers." France's Ministry of Immigration issued a statement which includes:
Following the initiative taken by the President of the Republic in fall 2007 to welcome Iraqis belonging to vulnerable religious minorities, France has thus far weclomed 1300 people. Under this program, and following the October 31, 2010 attack, Eric Besson has asked staff to accommodate 150 additional people with priority to those who were injured in the assault and their families.
With this program, France demonstrates once again solidarity with those persecuted for opinion and religion -- especially with the Christians of the Middle East. With this program, France extends support and friendship. France has not forgotten the daily hardships they endure and supports their legitimate desire to live in peace on the land where Christians have been present for centuries.
The release goes on to provide some basic stats including that they're working from an initial list of 57 injured people; 36 critically injured, the average age of the 150 is 35-years-old, the oldest person is 76-years-old and the youngest is 11-years-old. Yesterday at the US State Dept, spokesperson Philip Crowley was asked about the US and stumbled through, "Well we have a very significant resettlement program here in the United States, but I'll take that question as to --" Finally he worked his way back to Iraq to note, "So -- but we spoke out very significantly last week at -- when -- during -- in the aftermath of this tragedy and we continue to do whatever we can to help promote religious tolerance in Iraq and elsewhere." Bulls**t. And catch that "last week at -- when -- during -- in the" -- when P.J.? When did the State Department speak out?
October 31st was the massacre -- a Sunday. November 1st, Monday, nothing was said at the daily press briefing -- in fact, yesterday was the first time Philip Crowley weighed in -- and no statements were issued. Robert Gibbs spoke last week with a statement and, at the US Embassy in Iraq, Mike Hammer spoke. Is Hammer now part of the State Dept? That would explain the militarization of diplomacy -- Mike Hammer is the Nationsl Security Council spokesperson.
Yesterday, Crowley declared: "So -- but we spoke out very significantly last week at -- when -- during -- in the aftermath of this tragedy and we continue to do whatever we can to help promote religious tolerance in Iraq and elsewhere." So when was that? And if UPI is going to run with Crowley's claims, two questions. One, why did they clean up his quote? He did not say:
We spoke out very significantly last week in the aftermath of this tragedy and we continue to do whatever we can to help promote religious tolerance in Iraq and elsewhere.
So -- but we spoke out very significantly last week at -- when -- during -- in the aftermath of this tragedy and we continue to do whatever we can to help promote religious tolerance in Iraq and elsewhere.
Refer to this State Dept page for both the official transcript and for the video. So why did UPI clean up the quote?
Second question, why are they taking him at his word? He can't back that claim up because he did not address it until yesterday. And a meager sentence is not speaking "out very significantly" -- last week or this week.
AFP reports that Nouri has spoken out against . . . leaving Iraq: "The countries that have welcomed the victims . . . of this attack have done a noble thing, but that should not encourage emigration." Actually, the fleeing is encouraged by the violence. Nouri's turned a blind eye repeatedly. Why is he still in the running for prime minister? Oh, that's right because he's told the US that if he remains prime minister, he will allow US forces to stay in Iraq longer. Yesterday on The Takeaway (PRI), Celeste Headlee and John Hockenberry spoke with the Chaldean Federation of America's executive director Joseph Kassab and Andre Anton about the October 31st assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad which resulted in at least 58 deaths. Two of Andre Anton's cousins were killed in the assault, one of which was a priest (two priests were killed in the assault).
Andre Anton declares, "There's no plan [. . .] There's no real plan for the Christian Assyrians in Iraq. We're being slaughtered and we told the administration -- people I know who have personally worked on President Obama's campaign as a senator. There's no plan. There needs to be a plan." The first step? Letting go of the idea that Samantha Power's your friend. Or that Barack's going to do a damn thing because you asked nicely. Around the world, leaders have spoken out to condemn the assault. The only ones who haven't that spring to mind are Barack Obama and the Iranian president.
Celeste noted that Archbishop Athanasios Dawood called in England Sunday for Iraqi Christians to leave Iraq and for England and the United Nations to help with the departures and to provide asylum. She pointed out that there seemed to be a split in what was being said by some voices and Joseph Kassab insisted she was wrong but quickly revealed she was correct, "The reality is not a divide, actually we're converging together we are united we are stating exactly what you heard from Andre. our people there should be protected, there should be a plan to protect them. This is our land before the Arabs and the Muslims and therefore we should stay there." Therefore we should stay there?
But he's not there. He lives in America. And 'deed of land, deed of land, deed of land' or 'mine, mine, mine' may feel great to yell from the shores of the US but those living in Iraq may feel very differently. He's equally ridiculous when he maintains that a change to the Constitution will improve the lives of Iraqi Christians. Iraq already has laws against murder. The issue is Nouri doesn't see that they're enforced unless it's his own chosen sect. It's always been that way but -- again -- he promises to keep US troops on Iraqi soil so he gets the US backing for remaining prime minister.
If you believe ethnic cleansing is taking place in Iraq -- and I do -- your main concern really isn't "mine, mine, mine!" Your main concern is pressuring governments to accept the refugees and making it clear that the world is watching. It does come down to dead people in 'the homeland' or living survivors. (As noted this morning, Iraqi Christians in Iraq will do as they feel is right. That is their right. I'm condemning those stating that the problem can be fixed by tweeking the country's Constitution and/or that the Iraqi Christians must stay in Iraq.) the UK's Ekklesia notes that "hundreds" gathered in England outside Westminster today demanding the British government take steps to protect Iraqi Christians. A spokesperson for the organizers is quoted stating:
We appreciate how compassionate and caring the British public is, however we are asking the government to do more to protect those that wish to stay in their own country but at the same time welcome some of those that wish to leave and accept them into this country. So far the British government has been silent and the British media almost indifferent. We urge those with a voice to shout loud enough so the government can take notice. Even the French government offered to treat the wounded in France, and in fact 38 of the injured, including the heroic Father Qutaimi, were taken to France yesterday by special medical plane for treatment. We wish the British government had made a similar gesture.
Cecil Angel (Detroit Free Press) reports on yesterday's rally in support of Iraqi Christians which took place in downtown Detroit:
At a news conference at the St. Toma Syriac Catholic Church in Farmington Hills before the rally, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters called the church killings "despicable" actions. The Bloomfield Township Democrat said the U.S. government has to develop a comprehensive policy that will protect Christians in Iraq.
"We have to step up and step up and be firm," he said.
Peters said it's especially important to do something now that U.S. forces in Iraq are being drawn down.
"We have to be sure those religious minorities that live in Iraq have the protection they need," he said.
Representatives from U.S. Sen. Carl Levin's office and U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, a Harrison Township Republican, read letters at the news conference expressing support for action that will ensure the safety of Iraq's Christians. Miller called for the U.S. to help the Iraqi government better train its security forces to prevent future tragedies.
David LewAllen (WXYZ -- link has text and video) reports a video report of the Detroit rally, "They chanted, marched and prayed. A couple hundred Chaldean and other American Arabs staged a rally to protest genocide against Christians in Iraq." Andre Anton is shown insisting that the US military should "stay there for however many years, they have to provide it for us." Uh, no. They don't. That's not how it works. But, Andre, if you want to go back to Iraq and fight for your people, as the song says, "There's a train, every day, leaving either way" (Jackson Browne, "My Opening Fairwell," first appears on his self-titled debut album). It really does take a lot of gall for an able bodied adult to stomp their feet demanding the US should military protect their country "for however many years" while they themselves aren't living in said country. And it takes a lot of gall to take your ass out of Iraq, to run to safety, but to insist that others aren't allowed to do the same.
Turning to some of today's reported violence in Iraq . . .
Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured, a 17-year-old male was shot dead in a Mosul attack, a Mosul grenade attack injured two people, athe owner of a Mosul goldsmith shop was shot dead at his work and a Baghdad sticky bombing injured three people.
Friday October 22nd, WikiLeaks released 391,832 US military documents on the Iraq War. The documents -- US military field reports -- reveal torture and abuse and the ignoring of both. They reveal ongoing policies passed from the Bush administration onto the Obama one. They reveal that both administrations ignored and ignore international laws and conventions on torture. They reveal a much higher civilian death toll than was ever admitted to. Media Lens has released a review of the documents (and of how the media handled them or mishandled them). Excerpt:
The leaks reveal, not just a staggering level of violence and criminality in occupied Iraq, but also the determination of the Iraqi government and US forces to hide civilian casualties.
This is hardly surprising and fits with evidence that the US and UK governments have worked hard to smear credible scientific analysis of the likely death toll. A recent study by Professor Brian Rappert of the University of Exeter reported of the UK government: "deliberations were geared in a particular direction -- towards finding grounds for rejecting the  Lancet study [estimating almost 100,000 Iraqi deaths from the war] without any evidence of countervailing efforts by government officials to produce or endorse alternative other studies or data". (http://www.landmineaction.org/resources/A%20State%20of%20Ignorance.pdf)
Nevertheless, with a near-uniform intellectual sleight of hand, journalists have managed to turn evidence that civilian casualties are likely +much+ higher (as much as ten times higher) than most media have been reporting into evidence that casualties are perhaps 15 per cent higher. As one seasoned journalist told us privately, "WikiLeaks has been Guardianised" - their true significance has been disarmed, defanged and contained by the media.
This has been achieved by ignoring obvious implications of the leaks for the media's preferred death toll source, Iraq Body Count (IBC), and by ignoring much higher death counts altogether, notably those offered by the 2004 and 2006 Lancet studies. It has been achieved by turning to IBC spokespeople and by blanking alternative sources offering a very different view.
Why does someone self-check out? Why does someone self-medicate? For Iraq War veteran Jeff Hanks the answer to both is the lack of treatment for his PTSD. Sarah Lazare (Truthout) reported on Jeff last week:
Jeff, who grew up in Beebe, Arkansas, deployed to Iraq in 2008, a tour that eventually earned him a Combat Infantry Badge. During his time in Iraq, Jeff saw "the most brutal things of any of his deployments," he says. "It really bothered me. I think about it all the time." Jeff's Iraq deployment was marked by stressful combat patrols that kept him "always on edge." In 2008, he was witness to the aftermath of a car bomb explosion in a crowded marketplace in Balad, Iraq. It resulted in what he describes as "mass casualties." He saw one little girl, the age of his oldest daughter at the time, who had been gravely injured by the bomb, but still alive. "I can still see that little girl," he says. "I dream about her to this day."
Jeff says that he and others in his unit were not given adequate care for the mental wounds they sustained in battle, with mental health professionals only coming for short visits once a month. He describes his only experience seeing a therapist in Iraq: "It was a total joke," he says. "The guy just sat there and wrote stuff down and nothing ever came of it."
Jeff tells of one person in his unit who developed a severe drinking problem during his tour. "I know it stemmed from stuff he saw in Iraq," says Jeff. The command never pursued mental counseling of any kind for him. They told us not to speak to him and they eventually just kicked him out. He probably didn't get disability pay or anything."
Around the country, veterans are not getting the help they need. Like Jeff, they have to treat themselves and do it the best way they can because the system is failing them. Take Iraq War veteran Zachary Hershley who had a flashback and called 9-11.KFSM reports that despite it being clear to the 9-11 operator and to the police who arrived on the scene that Zachary clearly thought he was in Iraq, despite the fact that no one was -- thankfully -- hurt in the episode, the Platte Country District Attorney's office wanted a conviction fo some sort for Zachary with Eric Zahnd pompously declaring, "Post-traumatic stress disorder cannot equal a get out of jail free card. I did something I've never done to somebody accused of a DWI assault and that is allowed him to plead to a misdemeanor." A KFSM reader (Martha) shows far more common sense than does the prosecutor:
Iraq Veterans Against the War have launched Operation Recovery and this week they're doing outreach:
The Campaign Team and Chapters from across the nation are starting an effort to do regular outreach on and around military bases and universities.
The Campaign is in the popular research and base building phase. To win this struggle, hundreds of IVAW Members, Veterans, Service Members, and Allies are needed to help organize. Service Members and Veterans are in our communities and looking to be part of a community of people that understands them.
If you are a member of IVAW and want to learn more about how to get involved and do outreach click here.
We opened with realities of peace and war and we'll close with them. At World Can't Wait, Chris Floyd ponders Barack's trip to India and whether it might have been a peace trip? He concludes:
No: he has come to seal the deal on the sixth largest sale of war weapons in the history of the United States: $5 billion for the bristling, burgeoning Indian military, currently waging war on millions of its own people in Kashmir and the poverty-devastated state of central India, where the despair is so deep that suicide among the poor is epidemic.
Five billion dollars could have transformed the lives and futures of millions; instead it will go into the pockets of a few American war profiteers -- who will of course spread the wealth around to their favorite politicians ... such as Barack Obama, the leading recipient of war industry money in the 2008 campaign, outdoing even that old soldier and ardent militarist, John McCain.
And of course the Indian arms deal comes hot on the heels of the largest transaction of death-machinery in American history: Obama's $60 billion war-profiteering bonanza with Saudi Arabia, one of the most suffocatingly repressive and inhumane regimes on the face of the earth. But the Peace Laureate doesn't care about that. He knows what is truly important -- and it isn't the blighted lives of the Saudi people, or all those affected by the corruption and extremism that the Saudi royals have spread around the world (with the connivance, cooperation -- or at the command of -- the bipartisan American power structure). What matters most to the progressive paragon of peace is the sixty billion dollars stuffed into the coffers of his militarist backers.
If Obama wins re-election in 2012, it will not be because he "made a mid-course correction" or "learned the lessons" of the 2010 vote or "moved to the center" or any such witless expectoration of conventional wisdom. It will be because his militarist backers have judged his arms deals and Terror War operations sufficiently profitable to justify his retention. As is always the case with the War Machine that rules us, follow the money -- and the blood.