Saturday, January 15, 2011


Starting with this from the January 5th snapshot:

Today Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi visited Baghdad where he met with Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari as well as with Nouri al-Maliki. The Daily Times reports Zebair declared, "Our constitution doesn't allow any organisation to be on our land and attack our neighbours, and we are committed to that." Publicly, the issue of salt water was not commented on but may have been addressed in either of the private meetings. Furat News reported last month that the Minister of Water Resources had told Iran that they must stop polluting the waters with salt, that salt water is entering Iraq from Iran and that the Swaib River must be protected. Al Swaib River brings in the marshes and the Al Swaib Farm in Basra is a restoration project. It is known that they discussed the MEK.

Today Nizar Latif (The National) reports, "According to officials and residents living along the border zone close to Basra, 590 kilometres south of Baghdad, the problem of waste water, thick with salt and toxins, seeping in from Iraq has become acute poisoning the land and making farming all but impossible." From the story:

The effect on underground reservoirs and agriculture has been severe, forcing many farmers off the land and rendering the water undrinkable. The local government last year had to step in and send tankers of potable water out to residents.
It has also led to thick layers of salt forming on the surface of the land, both on the Iraq and Iranian side of the border, that kill off plant life. To clean the soil for agriculture, the salt must be washed off - but the process of flushing it away only ends up creating more polluted water.

Thursday night's entry was supposed to deal with e-mails but I focused on one that had just come in -- a good one to focus on, in my opinion -- and didn't have time to address another issue. More and more, in the snapshots especially, we're using foreign media in other languages. The US outlets rarely cover Iraq. I can speak and read a number of langagues, some better than others. I do have a working knowledge of Arababic (which I also spent the Christmas break brushing up on) and we're utilizing a larger number of those outlets. The January 5th snapshot containted the water issue and a number of visitors e-mailed to say of the Furat News article, "It's in some foreign language [Arabic] and how can I check you?" You can't unless you learn to read it. I don't know what to tell you.

It's not my job to footnote everything for visitors. US outlets pay less and less attention to Iraq, English language outlets around the world pay less and less attention to Iraq. More and more we'll be going to Arab media for Iraq coverage. Your concern shouldn't be my summary or synopsis. Your concern -- and mine -- should be whether or not it's accurate? The actual reporting, was it accurate or is it based on some sect's grudge or bias? I have no idea. But there is far too much in the Arab media that is not getting reported on in the US media and we've moved over to covering those outlets. If you can't read Arabic and don't want to trust me, you've got two choices: Learn the language or stop reading The Common Ills. Make your choice but stop sending e-mails about "I can't read it! How do I know you're telling the truth!"

In England, War Hawk Tony Blair's in the news as the days dwindle between now and Friday when he's recalled by the Iraq Inquiry. A book by Alastair Campbell and the big question there should be: Why?

Are we forgetting Campbell's Iraq Inquiry testimony? (See the January 12, 2010 snapshot and the January 13, 2010 snapshot.) The testimony of which Jason Beattie (Daily Mirror) observed, "The Godfather of Spin bobbed and weaved his way through a five-hour long grilling without once displaying a hint of humility or a glimmer of self-doubt." So we get Daniel Martin (Daily Mail) telling us Tony "allowed his wife Cherie to wear a pendant to 'ward off' evil spirits" and Nicholas Watt (Guardian) writing:

In a powerful illustration of the impact of Blair's faith on his actions, Campbell writes that a New Testament story about Herod and John the Baptist prompted prime ministerial jitters hours before the launch of an Anglo-American bombing mission against Iraq in December 1998.

Campbell, who famously dismissed questions about Blair's faith by saying "we don't do God", admits in his diaries that the former prime minister often read the Bible before he took "really big decisions".

Sorry, but he lied before an audience last January. I don't know why I should then give any credence to his published diary. Are we assuming it's not edited for publication or that someone who would lie so willingly in public wouldn't lie in their diary?

I have no idea. But it goes to credibility and Campbell no longer has any.

We may have to include that in a snapshot next week due to the amount of e-mails on the topic but that's my position: If you're a known liar, we're not greatly interested in your claims.

The following community sites updated last night and today:

We're at the middle of the month. Next month Iraq Veterans Against the War has this event:

February 25, 2011 9:30 - 10:30 am
Busboys & Poets, Langston room
14th & V st NW Washington DC
This report back will be to answer questions from media and the peace movement about the recent trip back to Iraq by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The war is not over but it is not the same as it was in years past. What is the humanitarian situation in Iraq?
How can we do reparations and reconciliation work?
Speakers are all returning from this delegation and include:
Geoff Millard (IVAW) Hart Viges (IVAW) Haider Al-Saedy (Iraqi Health Now)
Richard Rowely (
Big Noise Films)

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends