Friday, January 14, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, a group of Iraqis demonstrate against continued war and occupation, Diane Rehm wonders "But what about what the American people have been told?," Christians in Baghdad are attacked and eye witnesses state the police were among the attackers, Barack Obama finally has a statement about the attacks on Iraqi Christians, and more.
This week US Vice President Joe Biden visited several countries including Afghanistan and Iraq. On the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show, the visit was discussed and we're emphasing the Iraq section but picking up at the end of the Afghanistan discussion. Diane's guests were NPR's Tom Gjelten, NBC News' Courtney Kube and UPI's Martin Walker. Excerpt:
Diane Rehm: Courtney?
Courtney Kube: Yeah, on Vice President Biden's remarks in Afghanistan, I-I had to laugh when I read that the other day because he's made so many comments about the withdrawal -- the deadline in Afghanistan -- in the past few months. Just three weeks ago, he told Meet The Press -- NBC's Meet The Press -- that-that the US was going to be out of Afghanistan in 2014 come hell or high water. So three weeks later he's standing with President Karzai and says they're going to stay there. Now if you read through his remarks, it's plausible that he was specifically referring to supporting an Afghanistan nation-building plan and that-that it's possible he was talking more about the US would be there in a support role for nation-building -- that's sort of how his aides were spinning it afterwards. Whether that's what he meant or not, you got to ask Vice President Biden, though.
Tom Gjelten: You have to wonder, Diane, whether President [Barack] Obama sent Vice President Biden on this trip to Afghanistan precisely to force him into that situation to clarify his remarks. I think it was -- You know, we were -- everyone was -- looking for the magic words from him about the withdrawal and he did say to them -- he said that the withdrawal of US forces would be "conditions based" and that is not his position before. Clearly, he had gotten the message from President Obama that he needed to get on the same page as the rest of the administration in supporting the policy. That's one point. The second point is, as Martin eluded to, no one could better project the-the credibility of this message than the very figure of the administration who had been most skeptical of it. So, if you have Vice President Biden saying the United States is ready to stay after 2014, you can assume there are no more dissenting voices that are going to detract from that message.
Diane Rehm: But what about what the American people have been told? Namely that we are gonna get out [of Afghanistan] in 2014? Does that matter at all?
Martin Walker: It depends what you mean by "out." And I think this is Courtney's point, but -- as we're seeing in Iraq -- it's one thing to withdraw combat troops.
Diane Rehm: Sounds like the definition of the word "if."
Martin Walker: Exactly. That's the echo I was seeking. But there is a difference between having combat troops engaged in combat aggressive operations and having a number of support troops [who are] training troops and so on. And I think we're going to see that distinction blurred as creatively as possible by the administration over the next couple of years.
Tom Gjelten: You know, Diane, I'll go out on a limb here, I think what really concerns American people more than anything else is casualties and if you can --
Diane Rehm: Exactly.
Tom Gjelten (Con't): -- come up with a presence that does not produce a lot of casualties, there's gonna be a lot more tolerance for it. The United States still has a lot of combat troops in Iraq and will continue to have for a long time. But casualties there have gone way, way down. And I think that probably means the United States would be inclined to accept it -- the people of the United States would be inclined to accept it.
Diane Rehm: But what about Moqtada al-Sadr and his comments that he wants the US out of Iraq right now?
Martin Walker: Well he's back and he seems almost as feisty as [in] the past. What he was not saying was that he would perhaps lead any kind of military action to drive the Americans out. What is really striking is that his joining the government means that the deal that was reached with [Ayad] Allawi to bring the Sunnis on board by making him [Allawi] chairman of this new national strategy council -- that deal now looks hollow. In other words, the stability of Iraq in the future -- which will depend upon Sunni support -- now looks a great deal less certain than it was looking just two weeks ago.
Since Diane raised the issue of Moqtada al-Sadr, we'll move first to him and his supporters. Khaled Farhan, Khalid al-Ansary, Michael Christie and Tim Pearce (Reuters) report that approximately 2,000 followers of Moqtada al-Sadr marched through Kufa protesting that Joe Biden had visited and, P.S., they don't want him coming back. Of course the protest might not be so damn laughable if they'd managed to stage it while Joe Biden was actually in Iraq. In what should be a show of strength or at least moderate influence, the Sadr movement looks incredibly sad as their protest takes place after Biden leaves. So much for the talk of 'powerful' Moqtada and his 'powerful' movement. Azzaman reports that the followers "chanted anti-Ameircan slogans" and quoted follower Mohammed Abbas ("day-laborer") stating, "We demand no repeat visits to Iraq by Biden and we demand the departure of the occupier."
In the midst of a series of high profile meetings with Nouri al-Maliki, Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali al-Sistani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Moqtada al-Sadr presumably wanted to "stay on message." The protest knocked him off that and, in fact, got far more attention than did any of his photo-ops. It's doubtful al-Sadr's sanctined, let alone called for, the demonstration which only further indicates the problems he will be experiencing in the coming months as he tries to strike the pose of leader of a civil and engaged political body. His years and years in exile has allowed his 'movement' to engage in a variety of activities and, as Kufa's protest demonstrates, they still think that is appropriate -- even when it knocks al-Sadr off message and, in fact, upstages him and forces him to spend Saturday addressing the topic of the protest. So much for 'fearless' or 'fearful' leader Moqtada al-Sadr. Whether these are merely initial growing pains as the 'movement' and the man re-embrace or if they are signs of a natural split emerging will be determined in the coming months.
Moqtada al-Sadr wasn't the only one visiting al-Sistaning, also visiting him was Iraq's President Jalal Talabani. Al Mada reports that al-Sistani stressed that Iraq was a place for all Iraqis regardless of "religion, doctrine or nationalism, they are all brothers and we stand as one" and that Talabani told reporters after the meeting that he discussed with al-Sistani the suffering of Iraqi Christians and that al-Sistani repudiates the attacks and calls them crimes that do an injustice to all of Iraq. However, approximatley at the time Talabani was speaking to reporters, the Christian Association of Ashurbanipal in Baghdad was under attack and their property was damanged by unknown assailants and by, according to eye witness, Baghdad police officers. Abdul-Karim, speaking for the police, denied that they were connected to the attack. One eye witness reports that the Baghdad police could be seen with the assailants and exclaiming, "We are an Islamic state!" and "No place for Christians and Yazidis in Baghdad!" Iraqi Christians have long been targeted throughout the Iraq War and the latest wave of attacks started October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad leading to the deaths of approximately 70 people with approximately 70 others left injured.
Our Nation was founded on a shared commitment to the values of justice, freedom, and equality. On Religious Freedom Day, we commemorate Virginia's 1786 Statute for Religious Freedom, in which Thomas Jefferson wrote that "all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion." The fundamental principle of religious freedom -- guarded by our Founders and enshrined in our Constitution's First Amendment -- continues to protect rich faiths flourishing within our borders.
The writ of the Founding Fathers has upheld the ability of Americans to worship and practice religion as they choose, including the right to believe in no religion at all. However, these liberties are not self-sustaining, and require a stalwart commitment by each generation to preserve and apply them. Throughout our Nation's history, our founding ideal of religious freedom has served as an example to the world. Though our Nation has sometimes fallen short of the weighty task of ensuring freedom of religious expression and practice, we have remained a Nation in which people of different faiths coexist with mutual respect and equality under the law. America's unshakeable commitment to religious freedom binds us together as a people, and the strength of our values underpins a country that is tolerant, just, and strong.
My Administration continues to defend the cause of religious freedom in the United States and around the world. At home, we vigorously protect the civil rights of Americans, regardless of their religious beliefs. Across the globe, we also seek to uphold this human right and to foster tolerance and peace with those whose beliefs differ from our own. We bear witness to those who are persecuted or attacked because of their faith. We condemn the attacks made in recent months against Christians in Iraq and Egypt, along with attacks against people of all backgrounds and beliefs. The United States stands with those who advocate for free religious expression and works to protect the rights of all people to follow their conscience, free from persecution and discrimination. On Religious Freedom Day, let us reflect on the principle of religious freedom that has guided our Nation forward, and recommit to upholding this universal human right both at home and around the world.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 16, 2011, as Religious Freedom Day. I call on all Americans to commemorate this day with events and activities that teach us about this critical foundation of our Nation's liberty, and to show us how we can protect it for future generations here and around the world.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.
Returning to the topic of Joe Biden's visit and the ongoing Iraq War, Al Mada reports that both US and Iraqi officials are "calling for" some sort of "small American force" to remain in Iraq "in order to provide air support and military assistance" and notes Labid Abawi, Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister, says the security agreement will be worked on by "a high joint committee" and numerous subcomittees and that any amendment extending it "depends upon the request of one of the parties and the approval of the second party." Jack Kenny (New American) notes Biden's "hints" at a longer US presence and offers:
Whether al-Sadr and the 40-member Shi'ite faction in the nation's parliament could block an extension of the deadline is not known. What may be of greater concern to the United States is the link to Iran al-Sadr represents after spending the past four years there, and the growing influence Tehran may exert on the politics of neighboring Iraq. Iran, along with Saddam's Iraq and North Korea, was labeled part of the "axis of evil" by President George W. Bush and hostility between Washington and Tehran has continued over Iran's alleged efforts to develop nuclear weapons. While U.S. officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations have not ruled out a military strike against Iran, another war in the Middle East is something the United States can ill afford, both financially and militarily, while it is still fighting a nine-year-old war in Afghanistan and winding down its mission in Iraq. As Biden recalled in a speech to American troops in Baghdad yesterday, that mission has so far resulted in more than 4,000 American dead and some 32,000 wounded.
Whether the US is leaving or not, 12 escapees left a Basra prison today. AFP reports, "A dozen suspected members of Al-Qaeda's front group in Iraq escaped from a prison in the south of the country on Friday morning, police said." Reuters quotes Ali Ghanim al-Maliki, "head of the security committee of Basra's provincial committee," stating. "All of the men are linked to the Islamic State of Iraq, that is linked to al Qaeda. Some of them were arrested eight months ago, and three of them were arrested a month or less than a month ago. All the guards securing the compound have been detained for investigation. Of course, there was collusion from within the compound, but we do not know who is involved at this moment." Al Mada reports that photos of the escapees have been distributed to checkpoints throughout Basra.
Reuters notes today's violence includes a Tikrit sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 city worker and a Mosul sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer.
Three months have passed since the publication of US secret documents by the Wikileaks site, which included 400,000 documents relating to Iraqi political affairs. So far, there has been no serious Iraqi response. Instead, the two main political forces in the country, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law Coalition, and Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya list, initially tried using these documents to further their own interests. The Iraqiya list demanded investigations over allegations that Maliki had commanded squads that killed and tortured his opponents. Maliki denied these accusations, saying they were "tricks and media bubbles planned to serve certain political goals." But since the two parties joined forces and agreed on the formation of a new government at the end of December 2010, they have both ignored the Wikileaks documents.
Yesterday, we noted that spin on Iraqi refugees that's being advanced. Strange, isn't it? At a time when the White House should be explaining the number of refugees admitted to Iraq, instead there's a 'press' 'movement' about to insist that there were never that many Iraqi refugees. We called out those lies yesterday and the chief liar. Turns out Thomas E. Ricks' online equivalent of a sex toy, Joel Wing, is advancing the lies as well. In a lengthy post that says so very little, he advances every lie in the book and then -- to back up his lies or make it appear that they have been -- he lists 12 sources. But only two of them apply to "Not so many refugees!" and they're both the bad 'reporting' of Nicholas Seeley. Seems to me if you're including Works Cited for a piece claiming that the number of Iraqi refugees was much smaller than reported, you'd need more than one source for that claim but Nicholas Seeley is Wing's only source. Joel Wing may not be lying, he may truly be that stupid. Stupid tends to attract stupid and that would explain that Wing-Ricks online loving. But if you're so damn stupid that you don't grasp that most refugees in the country are not going to register -- especially in countries where they are not legally allowed to work -- or the issues of 'visiting' which requires some Iraqi refugees to cross the border back into Iraq and then return to get their passports stamped, then maybe you should find another subject to write about?
This page on the Hutton Inquiry website provides a great deal of detail on the redrafting of the September 2002 Iraq dossier, including the dates and times that drafts of Tony Blair's foreword were circulated.
"I am in no doubt that the threat is serious, and current; that he has made progress on WMD, and that he has to be stopped; that he does not want the UN inspectors in precisely because he has a great deal to hide."
But Saddam had already agreed to the return of UN inspectors. For example, at 02.39 that morning, the Guardian had reported that:
"Saddam Hussein last night caved in and agreed to the unconditional return of weapons inspectors to Iraq."
Turning to the US, Wil Cruz (Fox News Latino) reports on the journey home of the bodies of Sgt Jose M. Cintron Rosado and Spc Jose Delgado Arroyo who became the two most recent US military deaths in Iraq January 2nd. Cruz notes, "The deaths of Cintrón Rosado and Delgado Arroyo, the third and fourth soldiers from the Puerto Rico National Guard killed since Sept. 11, are a somber reminder of the sacrifice Puerto Ricans and Latinos have made to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In all, 593 Latino members of the military have been killed since Oct. 7, 2001, when U.S. soldiers and Marines first landed in Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense. And that number doesn't include casualties who have committed suicide after returning from their tours." Larry Copeland (USA Today) notes that it's not just people, things are also coming back from Iraq, the unmanned drones are itching to come to your neighborhood:
One of the chief obstacles to widespread use of UAVs is their inability to "see and avoid" other aircraft as required by federal regulations, a key to flight safety. Davis says he believes operators on the ground can comply with federal rules if they can see the aircraft and the surrounding environment. Wesley Randall, principal investigator on an FAA grant awarded last year to researchers at Auburn University to study the risks associated with unmanned aircraft, predicts drones will be used by police departments in five to 10 years. Randall predicts that much larger unmanned aircraft will be used to transport cargo within 15-20 years. No local police departments have been authorized to use unmanned aircraft, although police departments in Houston and Miami have conducted field tests of such planes, Dorr says.
Also home from Iraq is of Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. Paul Courson (CNN) notes Bradley is a suspect and, "He has not admitted guilt in either incident, his supporters say." War Is A Crime's David Swanson passes on:
DIFFENDING DISSENT FOUNDATION Founded in 1960 as the National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee CONTACT: Sue Udry, firstname.lastname@example.org
Martin Luther King Day is Monday, January 17, 2011
Invoking the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, peace and justice activists to descend on Quantico prison to protest torture of Bradley Manning
MLK Day plans call for noon demonstration at FBI headquarters in Washington followed by caravan to Quantico Marine Base
"Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak." - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We'll celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in a way that would make the great man proud. We embrace his legacy. Martin will be with us in the streets.
Noon: Protest at FBI Headquarters - 935 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC, to demonstrate our outrage and indignation against police state surveillance, infiltration, and attempts to entrap peace, environmental, animal rights, civil rights, and solidarity activists. Renowned "whistleblower" Coleen Rowley, a FBI special agent for almost 24 years, who testified to the Senate Judiciary on FBI's pre 9-11 failures, will address the crowd at the FBI headquarters. Ms. Rowley describes FBI abuses, "Instead of safeguarding our freedom and security, the FBI has become a growing danger to those trying to exercise our Constitutional rights. It is alarming to see the FBI revert to the abuses of the Vietnam era."
1 pm: Convoy to Quantico - We'll take off from the center of the American police state in a caravan to Marine Corps Base Quantico where military authorities are holding our brother Bradley Manning in an inhumane condition of solitary confinement. (Quantico is 45 minutes south of DC.) 2 pm: Rally at the Iwo Jima statue, Quantico Marine Base - The statue is at the southwest corner of Rt. 1 (Jefferson Davis Hwy) and Rt. 619 (Fuller Rd.) From I-95: Take exit 150, Quantico/Triangle. Take route 619 east to the entrance of the base.
Activists will descend on Quantico to protest the isolation and torture of Bradley Manning at Marine Corps Brig Quantico. This treatment is designed to break Manning's mind and reduce his ability to defend himself. Manning has been kept in 23 out of 24 hour solitary confinement for 7 months in a 6 foot by 12 foot cell. He is not allowed any meaningful exercise, has his sleep and day-night cycles disrupted by constant light, and is harassed by what the military calls "prevention of injury" measures. These require a guard to ask him every 5 minutes "are you ok?" which requires an affirmative response.
We call on Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army Chief of Staff, Gen. James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Colonel Daniel J. Choike, Base Commander, Marine Corps Base Quantico, to end the inhumane, degrading conditions of pre-trial confinement and respect Bradley's human rights. Specifically, we are calling on Pentagon officials to lift the "prevention of injury" watch. This would allow Bradley meaningful physical exercise, uninterrupted sleep during the night, and a release from isolation.
See the Letter from Psychologists for Social Responsibility to Defense Secretary Gates
Dan Ellsberg captures our sentiments regarding Bradley, "I spent years [during Vietnam] keeping my mouth shut as presidents lied to us and kept these secrets. I shouldn't have done that. And that's why I admire someone like Bradley Manning, or whoever the source was, for actually risking their own personal freedom in order to tell us the truth. I think they're being better citizens and showing their patriotism in a better way than when they keep their mouths shut."
(See our letter attached hereto.) "Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love." - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Endorsed by: Backbone Campaign, Bill of Right Defense Committee, Bradley Manning Support Network, CodePink, Courage to Resist, DC Bill of Rights Coalition, DC National Lawyers Guild, Defending Dissent Foundation, Democrats.com, Friends of Human Rights, Jobs for Afghans, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, National Accountability Action Network, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, Peace Action, Peace of the Action, Progressive Democrats of America, United for Peace and Justice, Voters for Peace, WarIsACrime.org, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, Witness Against Torture, World Can't Wait
That's only one action this month. Another is scheduled for Tuesday, January 25th and this is from Stop FBI Repression about the January 25th actions:
In December 2010, under the direction of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the FBI delivered nine new subpoenas in Chicago to anti-war and Palestine solidarity activists. Patrick Fitzgerald's office is ordering the nine to appear at a Grand Jury in Chicago on January 25.
In response we are calling for protests on Jan. 25 across the country and around the world to show our solidarity.Hundreds of organizations and thousands of people will be protesting at Federal Buildings, FBI offices, and other appropriate places, showing solidarity with the nine newly subpoenaed activists, and with all the activists whose homes were raided by the FBI.
Fitzgerald's expanding web of repression already includes the fourteen subpoenaed when the FBI stormed into homes on September 24th, carting away phones, computers, notebooks, diaries, and children's artwork. In October, all fourteen activists from Chicago, Minneapolis, and Michigan each decided to not participate in the secret proceedings of Fitzgerald's Grand Jury. Each signed a letter invoking their Fifth Amendment rights. However, three women from Minneapolis -- Tracy Molm, Anh Pham, and Sarah Martin -- are facing re-activated subpoenas. They are standing strong and we are asking you to stand with them --and with the newly subpoenaed nine activists -- by protesting Patrick Fitzgerald and his use of the Grand Jury and FBI to repress anti-war and international solidarity activists.
Defend free speech! Defend the right to organize! Opposing war and occupation is not a crime!
Tell Patrick Fitzgerald to call off the Grand Jury!
Stop FBI raids and repression!
Please organize a local protest or picket in your city or on your campus on Tuesday Jan. 25 and e-mail us at email@example.com to let us know what you have planned.
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:
March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.
The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.
While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.
Actions of civil resistance are spreading.
On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.
Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.
Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.
Descent Into Madness "60 Minutes" talks to Jared Loughner's friends and classmates and to ex-Secret Service, to reconstruct the pathway to mass murder he allegedly took in Tucson - a pattern this agent who once guarded the president could write a textbook about. Scott Pelley reports.
Yemen Steve Kroft reports on the U.S.'s new partner in the war on terror, Yemen, a known al Qaeda hideout and recently the source of several explosive packages sent to America.
The Gambler Las Vegas sports betting legend Bill Walters has never had a losing year - a winning a streak that's made odds makers call him the "most dangerous sports bettor in Nevada." Lara Logan reports. | Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Jan. 16, at 8 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. PT.