Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Jack Straw and other oddities

Richard Pearl, John Bolton, George W. Bush and Colin Powell. These are only some of the names Jack Straw has brought up in his testimony to the Iraq Inquiry today (this morning in the US and ongoing but this afternoon in London where the Inquiry is located). For Bush, Straw had kind words; for Colin The Blot Powell, Straw stated Powell insisted that 'you couldn't delay action too long' (starting the illegal war). After returning from a brief break at 6:12 EST, Straw appeared even more agitated and frustrated and, at one point, lashed out at a previous witness, labeling the testimony that had been offered "incredulous." One of his most important contributions this go round may be his explanation that "serious consequences" equals "military action."

One impression that's hard to escape is the death of Saddam Hussein and that Straw is obsessed with it. Guilt-ridden? He keeps bringing it up, without prompting. And sounds a bit like he's referring to the 'final solution.' Certainly, when you consider all the world leaders the US and British governments have protected from their people, prevented from going on trial, it is surprising on some level that they executed Saddam Hussein (Iraq was occupied and staffed with exiles, do not pretend that Iraqis executed him whether they wanted to or not, the occupiers were in charge). Is it guilt over the death or fear over later charges to come if the world gets behind calling out the illegal war? He insisted that Hussein was given the chance to disarm but, of course, that's really not what happened. And as he continued to harp on that and other details, it was hard not to notice his obsession with the death of Hussein.

In Iraq, Alsumaria TV is breaking news (where are the US outlets)? Despite Nouri and a so-called legal expert insisting that the power-grab (Nouri got the Supreme Court to put independent bodies under his control) was Constitutional, "Alsumaria News got a copy of a document released by Iraq’s Supreme Court in 2006 in clarification to the inquiries of the former Parliament’s Integrity Commission over the exact meaning of independence mentioned in Constitution Article 102 and the difference in content between Articles 102 and 103. The court’s clarification came contradictory with its last ruling on January 18 stipulating to have independent institutions supervised by the Cabinet and not the Parliament." It should be noted that the Electoral Commission has specifically asked the United Nations to step in (and, no, they didn't mean the embarrassing nonsense Ad Melkert offered already).

Yesterday's snapshot
covered some of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing which took testimony from US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and the top US commander in Iraq Lloyd Austin. The following sentence requires a correction:

Senator Ben Cardin asked about the refugee returns and Jeffrey noted that "the overaching reason why people don't return is concerns about security."

That should be "overarching". I speak quickly when I dictate these and people do a wonderful job keeping up and I thank them for that but Jeffrey used the term "overarching." Kat covered the hearing with "Senate Foreign Relations Committee," Ava with "The forgotten covert wars on Latin America (Ava)" (at Trina's site) and Wally with "It's a boom economy!" (at Rebecca's site). Someone e-mailed the public account stating Austin was ignored the snapshot. I believe I made it clear that early on he made his own testimony worthless; however, if you need more of his 'worthy' testimony, "Opportunity." That was his one word reply to a question in the second round about the bombings of the last two weeks. He elaborated that it was due to the vast number of people (pilgrims) taking part in the holiday. That would be the holiday which takes place every year. No, last year didn't see that level of attacks. No, Austin doesn't know anything he's talking about but he manages to string together words in something which resembles a sentence, if not quite a response.

In this morning's Washington Post, Walter Pincus reports on the hearing noting:

James F. Jeffrey, the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that his staff of 8,000 will grow in the coming year to about 17,000 people, the vast majority of whom will be contractors.
And while the State Department is spending about $2 billion annually on Iraq operations now, it plans to spend an additional $1 billion on the construction of facilities in each of the next several years.
"We face a critical moment now in Iraq, where we will either step up to the plate, finish the job and build on the sacrifices made," Jeffrey said, "or we will risk core U.S. national security interests, be penny-wise and pound-foolish and cede the field to al-Qaeda and other dangerous regional influences."

Hearing that, it sailed over me. Reading it in Pincus' report, I wonder if veterans and diplomats (as well as US tax payers) might argue, "When didn't we step up to the plate?" That's really an insulting remark from someone whose job it is to be diplomatic. The illegal war's been going on for eight years next month but, apparently, thank goodness, we've got James Jeffrey at last who is going to see to it that the US 'finally' steps up to the plate. What an idiot. Jason Ditz ( adds, "The fact that, some eight years after having removed Saddam Hussein, the US is still talking about a “transitional” period points to just how poorly the regime change plan has gone, and Ambassador Jeffrey’s exhortations to “finish the job” by keeping diplomats in a palatial estate in Baghdad on an open-ended mission to prop up the Maliki regime are unlikely to be met well."

PBS' Frontline features a report (link has text and video) from Anna Badkhen
on Iraqi women:

No one knows exactly how many Iraqi women have been raped since the U.S-led invasion in 2003, but activists in Iraq and abroad put the numbers in the thousands. Human rights groups began to see an increase in rapes in Iraq immediately after the fall of Hussein’s regime, and evidence that different factions were targeting women. In 2008, Amnesty International reported that “crimes specifically aimed at women and girls, including rape, have been committed by members of Islamist armed groups, militias, Iraqi government forces, foreign soldiers within the U.S.-led Multinational Force, and staff of foreign private military security contractors.”

The report went on to say that such crimes are rarely prosecuted or even recorded by Iraqi officials.

Under Saddam’s Baath Party rule, security forces used torture and rape against political prisoners; and the dictator’s eldest son, Uday, reportedly ordered any woman who caught his eye to be delivered to his palace. But rape was otherwise not widespread.

“There was law,” said Yanar Mohammed, an Iraqi women’s rights advocate and feminist. “Nobody would go around raping.”

Again, there were many other things that I would have liked to have highlighted but there's just no time due to the weather. (See previous entry.) And for any who know me personally, I ordered a hot chocolate. (I do not and have never drank coffee. People who know me personally will find it hard to believe I'm in a coffee shop -- the smell alone makes me sick.) I can't imagine the electricity being out all day (and supposedly it is being worked on now) but should it be, I may call this a snow day and not do a snapshot. Just a heads up. That's a maybe, not a "there will be no snapshot."

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