Sunday, January 30, 2011

And the war drags on . . .

Ayas Hossam Acommock (Al Mada) reports that a demonstration was held in Firdous Square today with "intellectuals and the media" participating to show their solidarity with Arab people in Egypt. In addition, the participants called for the elimination of restrictions on freedoms in Iraq and called for basic services to be provided. Speakers spoke of "the long revolution" as Arabs have fought against dictatorships. Staying with the issue of the press, Josh Halliday (Guardian) reported in the middle of this month that the Guardian had, on appeal, won in the libel case brought against them by Nouri al-Maliki's Iraqi National Intelligence Service over this article. Meanwhile al Furat reports that Kata Rikabi, secretary to Nouri al-Maliki, is suing the Euphrates newspaper and the paper's editor Hussein Khoshnaw over articles al Furat published. Established a month after the start of the Iraq War, Al-Furat was previously (2007) targeted with a bomb threat at their Sydney offices.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4439. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4439.

Today? Reuters can't even be bothered with assembling a factbox of the day's violence and the day's almost over. Not many otherrs are reporting on Iraq either. You know that the media never truly learned balance and only knows how to bandwagon.

So we'll instead note Arab press on Iraq. al-Furat reports on WikiLeaks' released State Department cables which assert that Washington is surveyed by Iraq's Foreign Minister -- via the US Embassy in Iraq -- before visas are granted to Iranian diplomats. An April 2009 cable is cited which proclaims that the Foreign Minister has done this since 2008. Hoshyar Zebari was the Foreign Minister then and remains so today.

Meanwhile Ayad Allawi appears to have lost any remaining bits of trust in Nouri al-Maliki. Al Rafidayn reports that he has requested Massoud Barzani, President of the KRG, be present for a mediation between Allawi and al-Maliki. Despite promising Allawi he would head the National [Security] Council, it has still not been created. Earlier this month, a meeting was held with Ibrahim al-Jaafari attending and that moved no mountain. Al Mada reports that Iraqiya is accusing Nouri of working against the agreements formed to allow him to continue as prime minister and they accuse him of preventing the formation of the National Council. An unnamed source with the Iraqi National Alliance tells Al Mada that no National Council issues will be resolved until Nouri has named the security posts that remain empty in his Cabinet and the source expects that will take at least two weeks.

In London, the Iraq Inquiry continues taking public testimony this week and Wednesday will be the media moment as Jack Straw testifies again. Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) notes John Chilcot, chair of the Inquiry, refuses to address the very real problem facing the Inquiry and its credibility:

The Inquiry – and Sir John Chilcot in particular – don’t seem to understand that their attempts to cover up the significant role of Inquiry secretary Margaret Aldred in the (Labour) government’s Iraq policy for four and a half years are undermining any reputation they may have for openness and honesty.

Margaret Aldred should be a significant witness at the Inquiry. Her predecessor Tom McKane, who held the post of deputy head of Defence and Overseas Secretariat (subsequently Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat) for a shorter time than her, was a key witness last week. The only reason she has not been called as a witness is because she is the Inquiry secretary.

The Inquiry has refused to say whether it has been given documents relating to Aldred’s work, let alone how many, but the answer to the first part is pretty obvious. Margaret Aldred is surely the only senior official whose involvement has not by now been disclosed in published documentary evidence. The Inquiry’s willingness and ability to reveal the extent of her role is clearly compromised by the fact that she is its secretary. In concealing the conflict of interest, the Inquiry is concealing the truth of what happened.

As for the process by which Aldred was appointed, it was only through Digest contributor Chris Lamb’s freedom of information request that it was revealed that she was directly nominated by cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell. The Inquiry’s head of communications had previously stated

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Pru notes this from Great Britian's Socialist Worker:

Don't let them tell us to pay the price for recession

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When the price of a loaf of bread starts to become the subject of conversations at work it’s a terrible sign of the times—hard times.

Not a day goes by without stories of price increases in food and fuel bills, and on top of that there’s the rise in VAT.

Ordinary people in Britain are facing a double whammy of rocketing prices and for many wages are falling.

In fact prices are rising more than twice as fast as wages.

The end of 2010 saw the highest ever rise in food prices in a November to December period. The largest increases were everyday staples—vegetables, bread and cereals and milk, cheese and eggs.

Also in December—the coldest in 100 years—five out of six energy companies announced price rises of up to 9 percent.

Whichever measure for price inflation you use, they show rises of between 3.7 and 4.8 percent. Yet workers are getting average wage rises of only 2.1 percent.

From April, benefit levels will be linked to the lower measure of inflation. This means that everyone who depends on welfare benefits will be forced to live on even less.

The lower rate has also been used to allow bosses to pay less into workers’ pension funds—so they win either way.

But where is the opposition to these wholesale attacks on our living standards?

Ed Balls, Ed Miliband’s new shadow chancellor, has been described in the press as Labour’s “attack dog”.

But the coalition will not be too worried. Balls’ big attack on his first day in post was to say the coalition “are cutting spending now in a fast and reckless way”.

This isn’t enough—there is no slow and thoughtful way to cut.

Balls and Miliband accept the logic that the deficit has to be brought down, and that the only way to do that is to attack workers and the poor.

The deficit came from bailing out banks—those whose reckless gambling caused the crisis in the first place.

They now reward themselves with huge bonuses while millions worry about affording the basics of life.

Last year the total earnings of FTSE 100 directors rose by a spectacular 55 percent.

It’s about time we made the Tories and bosses suffer some hard times.

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