Thursday, February 10, 2011

Continued deployments, weaponization of diplomacy

KGO reports the 297th Area Support Medical Company of California's National Guard will be eploying 60 soldiers to Iraq. Alexis Terrazas (San Francisco Examiner) reports on the send-off ceremony. And the St. Cloud Times reports that Camp Riley is sending 4 soldiers to Iraq and that the send-off ceremony was yesterday. Meanwhile Miriam Jordan (Wall St. Journal) profiles Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran Luis Lopez who, despite many medals, got a discharge because he's a citizen of Mexico and is currently attempting to become a US citizen. Jordan explains:

In August, he began filling out immigration forms to rectify his status. One form required the personnel department on the base to attest that Mr. Lopez was serving "honorably," to qualify him for citizenship.
Sharon Harris, chief of the division, raised questions over the fact he had presented a counterfeit document to enlist, says Mr. Lopez. In September, Ms. Harris checked the "No" box beside the statement, "Applicant served honorably or is currently serving honorably."
In response to emailed questions, an Army spokesman wrote that Ms. Harris had checked "No" because Sgt. Lopez had "fraudulently enlisted."
The Army initiated procedures to discharge him.

Meanwhile, in the US, barring an extension of the SOFA (Status Of Forces Agreement -- and such an extension is possible and, if it takes place, would most likely take place in the late fall or early winter based on past extensions), diplomacy will be weaponized as US soldiers remain in Iraq under the umbrella (officially) of the State Dept and not the Defense Dept. The NSC will be calling the shots so the State Dept itself will be weaponized. In the general media, this issue just must not be raised to register an opinion -- certainly not an objection. The 'left' beggar media has used the story to bash Hillary who is not running things in Iraq currently and will not be, she is executing the policy Barack has come up with (come up with in consultation with War Hawk Samantha Power). As we've noted from the beginning, it's the national security types who are running it and that is why, after the failure of Chris Hill, Barack quickly put James Jeffrey in the role of US Ambassador to Iraq when his background is national security, not diplomacy. But calling her a 'bitch' or implying she's a 'bitch' is so productive for so many failures who work in Beggar Media because no one in Real Media would hire them -- and possibly their overt sexism is among the many reasons Real Media isn't interested in hiring them.

Working out their own Mommy issues should be done on their own damn time. Exploring what will take place to diplomacy if there's no extension of the SOFA is the real issue and it has largely gone unexamined in the US.

In England today, Oxfam issued the following release:

The UK government should learn from other countries’ costly mistakes and resist the temptation to use the UK’s internationally respected aid programme to pursue narrow military and security interests, Oxfam said today.

Whose Aid is it Anyway? a report published today by the international agency found that billions of pounds of international aid that could have transformed the lives of people in the poorest countries in the world has been spent on unsustainable, expensive and sometimes dangerous aid projects, as donor governments including the US, Canada and France have ignored international agreements and used aid to support their own short-term foreign policy and security objectives. Aid budgets have also been increasingly skewed towards Iraq and Afghanistan at the expense of equally severe conflicts and crises elsewhere.

Although the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly increased the amount of aid the UK spent in those two countries, overall the UK has followed better practice than many other major donors.

There is a danger the UK will increasingly use aid to pursue foreign policy objectives, a move which would tarnish its reputation as a global leader on aid. During 2010, the coalition government has emphasised the need for greater integration of the work of the foreign office, ministry of defence and DFID, and has brought aid for priority countries under the scrutiny of the new National Security Council. There is also a requirement on DFID to show that UK aid overall is making the “maximum possible contribution to national security”.

Kirsty Hughes, Oxfam Head of Policy, said: “British aid to fragile states is at a crossroads. Ministers have a choice between making every penny of British aid count for poor people or prioritising short-term security goals that risk leading to over-expensive, ineffective and often dangerous aid, while making little impact on security and stability.”

Three reviews of aid, expected to report in the next two months, will be vital in determining the UK’s path. A government-commissioned, independent review of UK humanitarian assistance in conflicts and natural disasters, led by Lord Ashdown, will assess the appropriate role of the military in humanitarian aid and two official reviews will determine the future of UK bilateral and multilateral aid.

Oxfam’s report warns that 225 aid workers were killed, kidnapped or injured in attacks during 2010, compared to 85 in 2002. In part, this reflects the greater number of workers operating in violent places but a large part of the increase was due to a rise in politically motivated attacks. Aid workers’ neutrality is compromised if local people see aid as a tool of the military.

Hughes said: “The stark lesson from the last decade is that politicising aid during conflicts does more harm than good. Ill-thought out ‘politicised’ projects alienate the very people whose ‘hearts and minds’ they seek to win. Blurring the role between civilian aid workers and the military turns aid workers and the communities in which they work into targets for attack.”

Since 2001, more than 40% of the total increase in development aid from the OECD club of rich donors has gone to just two states, Afghanistan and Iraq, with the remainder shared out between around 150 other poor countries, the report found.

Standing at more than $1.5bn in 2010, aid funds used for short-term projects by US military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan are now almost as large as the US’ worldwide poverty-focused development assistance budget.

Lifesaving humanitarian aid for urgent needs amidst conflict has also been skewed. At best, humanitarian aid per head given annually to the Democratic Republic of Congo has been a twelfth of that spent in Iraq. This is despite the fact that thousands of civilians in the DRC die every year as a result of conflict and per capita income in the DRC is more than ten times lower than in Iraq.

In addition, ‘War on terror’-led foreign policy in targeted countries has in some places made it harder for aid agencies to provide help to those who need it. New US and European anti-terror laws have prevented potentially lifesaving aid reaching areas controlled by proscribed groups.

Hughes said: “Britain should reinforce its reputation as a world leader on aid by ensuring that all UK aid is focussed on tackling poverty and meeting vulnerable people’s needs. This would do more for Britain’s standing in the world than choosing to use aid as a tool of foreign policy.

“Aid will only win hearts and minds when it is clearly distinct from military efforts and aimed at reducing poverty and suffering, rather than addressing the short-term security problems of donor governments.”

Read the report: Whose Aid is it Anyway?

To arrange an interview, obtain a copy of the full report or for further information contact: Jon Slater on 01865 472249/ or Rebecca Wynn 01865 472530/ 07769 304351/

Now of course we can't count on Pacifica to cover this. Pacifica Radio is nothing but the Egypt Soap Opera. That's all it's been for days and days. And still they beg for money. From US listeners. But those needing audio or wanting it, can stream the latest Guardian Focus podcast of which Madeleine Bunting explains, "In recent years a disproportionate amount of aid has been swallowed in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq alongside UK military operations. UK aid to Afghanistan alone is set to increase by forty percent over the next three years. I'm Madeleine Bunting and this week's Guardian Focus podcast examines what some call the securitization of aid -- the subordination of aid and development programs to defense and security objectives. And we ask: What is the role aid should play in a war zone?" In the US, these issues will apparently continue to be off limits. (Hillary does come up in the podcast and is criticized. She is not bashed, there is a difference. We'll address the podcast later today.)

The following community sites updated last night and today:

We'll close with this from Lina Thorne's "Virulent New Wave of Anti-women, Anti-abortion Attacks" (World Can't Wait):

Merle Hoffman, director of Choices Women’s Medical Center says: “the right to reproductive freedom is like the right to breathe: it transcends laws.” Why is that the case? Listen to a conversation with Debra Sweet, Sunsara Taylor, Dr. LeRoy Carhart, Merle Hoffman and Carol Joffe on why abortion is such an important moral and political right.

And yet, from the “guerrilla activists” trying to take down Planned Parenthood to the state and federal legislators (from both parties) further restricting women’s access to abortion, 2011 has seen more assaults on women’s most fundamental rights yet – more even than under the Bush years. What we need is an outpouring of resistance to this assault on the humanity of women!

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oh boy it never ends