Thursday, May 12, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, May 12, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's estrangement from other politicians in Iraq continues, revelations out of England, and more.
Yesterday on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, Sawyer led with  . . .
Diane Sawyer: It wasn't how it was supposed to go.  Today in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki held a press conference in which he declared he would be consulting with all political blocs to determine whether or not US forces should stay past December 2011. The Status Of Forces Agreement, more popularly known as the SOFA, signed in the last days of the Bush administration, was supposed to mean the Iraq War ended.  In fact, let's go to footage of how we reported that November 27, 2008.
David Muir: We do have one other note from overseas tonight and this one is more promising.  A milestone in Iraq today. Parliament ratified a security agreement that would require US troops to be out in three years.  Marking the first clear timetable since the 2003 invasion. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor. 
[Footage plays with headine "U.S.-IRAQ SECURITY DEAL Troops out in 3 years."]
David Muir (Con't): The US Embassy hailed the vote, saying the deal will "formalize a strong and equal partnership between the United States and Iraq."  We turn now to Thanksgiving in . . .
Diane Sawyer: That was David Muir, sitting in for Charlie Gibson.  And it wasn't just us, many outlets got it wrong.  For example, this from CBS Evening News also from November 27, 2008 with Jeff Glor sitting in for Katie Couric.
Jeff Glor: In Iraq, it's finally down on paper tonight, a security deal that calls for all 150,000 US troops to leave the country by 2011, eight years after the invasion.  And while the deal took many months to hammer out, the vote in Parliament today, wasn't even close.  Elizabeth Palmer is in Baghdad.
Elizabeth Palmer:  It was a fight to the finish.  An Iraqi member of Parliament struggled to read out the final text of the agreement over the angry chants of opponents -- all of them followers of the anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.  When the vote came, it was decisive with support from all of Iraq's main ethnic groups.  The security agreement allows US troops to stay in Iraq for another 3 years but not on patrol like this. By July of 2009, they will largely be confined to base while Iraqi security forces take over.  Maj Brandon Newton and his men work the streets of Dora, a Baghdad neighborhood that not long ago was a battle ground controlled by al Qaeda.  Today though, the Americans can't remember their last attack.
Maj Brandon Newton: When you can't remember the last time something happened that's usually a good sign.
Elizabeth Palmer: So US forces have been able to switch focus, from combat to coaching Iraqi forces. Iraqi forces, flush with new skills and confidence, are now keen to take over but Lt Col Qadem [Jabr] like many admits he's glad to have backup.  In areas where it's necesary, he says, the US forces support us  when asked.  That also reassures Iraqi civilians still learning to trust their new army and police.
Male Iraqi (unidentife):  The Americans, I will miss them.  The Americans never sleep but the Iraqis [indicates sleeping and then laughs].
Elizabeth Palmer: President-elect Obama has promised to pull all combat troops out within 16 months.  But today's agreement allows some US forces to stay on in a support role.  For once, the American and Iraqi political agendas appear to be in sync.  Elizabeth Palmer, CBS News, Baghdad.
Diane Sawyer: Again, that was CBS Evening News, November 27, 2008.  "A security deal that calls for all 150,000 US troops to leave the country by 2011."  Wrong.  To address how so many of us could have been so wrong, we now go to Martha Raddatz who is in North Carolina at Camp Lejeune where Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke earlier today.  Martha, welcome.  Martha?  Martha, can you hear me?  We seem to have be having some technical difficulties.  Today, Nouri al-Maliki declared that if 70% of the members of political blocs were in favor of US troops remaining, that's what would happen.  70% seems like a high figure but it is not necessarily out of reach.  For example, the Kurds make up approximately 30% and they are expected to fully support US troops remaining in Iraq beyond 2011. As I said earlier, ABC's Martha Raddatz is at Camp Lejeune where she covered Secretary Gates' speech today.  Secretary Gates has been one of the leading forces on extending the US military presence in Iraq beyond 2011.  So, as we go to break, and to show just how wrong we can all be, here's Vanity Fair's Todd S. Purdum speaking on PBS' Washington Week, Novembe 28, 2008.
Todd S. Purdum: Having Secretary Gates at Defense would continue stability there. Obviously President Obama would bring in his own perspective.  But if he needs to wind down the Iraq War, which is what he said he'd do in his campaign, there's really no better way to do it -- in terms of managing the process at the Pentagon with the generals and the uniformed forces -- then having a person trusted like Secretary Gates be there to do that.  It's almost a Nixon in China kind of way.  As we know, Secretary Gates was part of the Iraq Study Group until he stopped being it to take the job and he comes from that realist school of Brent Scowcroft, people who were around the first Presidet Bush.  So it looks like a pretty solid team.
The above?  Excerpts from November 27th and November 28th of 2008 did broadcast as quoted.  But the wrap around of Diane Sawyer from yesterday?  Nope.
ABC, CBS and NBC did not see fit, on their evening news yesterday, to carry the news about the SOFA.  But following a report by Dan Harris, Diane Sawyer was happy to turn World News into America's Funniest Home Videos, explaining, "And you have to see this video while Dan was there in the park -- did you see him there on the bench -- a persistent squirrel started fighting him for some camera time and food and you can see the showdown, look who won at ABC News, the squirrel by the way wants to come back."
This morning's papers contain many stories about Nouri's press conference.  For example, Sahar Issa and Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Wednesday that he would engage in a months-long consultation with Iraq's many poliitical factions before deciding whether to ask the United States to keep some troops in the country.  Al-Maliki said he would back a continued U.S. troop presence if he found that at least 70 percent of the country's political leadership favored such a move."  In approximately 7 months, 'all' US troops were supposed to be out of Iraq so Nouri's announcement is big news . . . unless you count on broadcast news.

And the lack of interest in this development is all the more amazing when you grasp that broadcast news used the SOFA as their excuse to withdraw from Iraq. Never before in its history had ABC News not kept staff in a region where the US had an official (as opposed to covert) war. But the SOFA was their excuse to bail. They made a big to do about how they'd be using BBC News to cover Iraq. What was that, once, twice? Three times? And then they were done with the whole topic. CBS thought (and still does) that Elizabeth Palmer could clone herself and cover the entire MidEast. Most appalling was NBC because it's also the cable network MSNBC -- meaning it has to produce more 'product.' While CNN had a staff in Iraq, stationed in Iraq, what did MSNBC have?

Nothing. They used Richard Engel (or misused) almost as badly as CBS did Elizabeth Palmer.

(Of the three commercial, broadcast news programs, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams has done the best job of covering Iraq. That's not saying much, granted, but Brian Williams has shown a real interest in the continuing events and Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer have not. The latter two also lacked the interest or ability to provide context to the events and probably the reason Nightly News dominates the ratings is because -- whether you agree with his take or not -- Brian Williams does know how to provide context.)

Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) quotes Nouri al-Maliki stating, "This is a big national issue, and it needs a national consensus." It's a real shame no one in the administration is making the same point here in the US.

Jack Healy and Yasir Ghazi (New York Times) observe, "The future of the American military presence is one of the most volatile questions in Iraq. Military and political leaders from Iraq and the United States admit that Iraq's security forces are not yet ready to defend Iraq's airspace or borders. Few Iraqis are glad to have American soldiers still here more than eight years after the invasion, but many worry that violence and terrorist attacks will increase if the American force leaves altogether." While some are saying the US government needs an immediate answer, Aaron C. Davis (Washington Post) reports that Nouri stated they need an answer "by August."

If you're wondering how PBS' The NewsHour did, not very good.  Not very good yesterday because they failed to even include in their wrap up.  And not very good November 27, 2008 either.  They actually could have done a good job that day.  Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) was the guest and she explained that the average Iraqi did not believe the SOFA meant withdrawal.  Had Alissa stuck to reporting, she would have been fine.  But Alissa knew so much more than what took place, she also knew . . the future.  So it was 'amusing' to her that Iraqis, hearing of the SOFA, weren't quick to believe that a withdrawal had to take place at the end of 2011.
History has proven the Iraqis wise to be suspicious and Alicia painted herself as Queen of the Suckers Born Every Minute.  Now most weren't able to analyze the SOFA.  Few have a legal background.  But even in the 'general studies' mills that pass for journalism schools, they should be taught that news is what has happened.  In other words, all of their, "US forces will leave Iraq in 2011 . . ." statements were predictions.  And the thing about predictions is they don't always come true.  Better for journalists to stick to reporting.  And having wrongly reported the SOFA from the start, The NewsHour really needed to get it right last night.
Xiong Tong (Xinhua) reports Iraq finally has vice presidents, three of them, in fact. Adel Abdul Mahdi and Tariq al-Hashimi became vice presidents of Iraq in 2006 and they have been voted back into their posts.

This despite Adel Abdul Mahdi stating most recently that he would not seek the position. Presumably al-Hashimi's re-election means that the lawsuits and compalints against him disappear. (President Jalal Talabani asked both to continue in their roles until the Parliament could elect 'new' vice presidents. Both continued in their roles. Complaints arose against Sunni al-Hashimi for presenting himself to foreign countries as a vice president.)

The new vice president is Khudair al-Khuzaie. There had been talk of a third vice president creating the opportunity for Iraq to have a woman in a high level (but ceremonial) post. There had been talk of it going to a Turkman (Jalal Talabani planned originall for it to go to a Turkman female). There was also talk that it might go to a Kurd. In the end, it went to a Shi'ite giving Iraq two Shi'ite vice presidents (the other being Adel Abdul Mahdi).

Elections took place in Iraq March 7, 2010. But as Nouri fought to retain the post of prime minister, a stalemate emerged. In November, the stalemate allegedly ended. Were that the case, Iraq would have named vice presidents in November and not six months later.

Ned Parker, Raheem Salman and Salar Jaff (Los Angeles Times) report:

Six months after agreeing to form a national unity government, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and his secular rival Iyad Allawi are again exchanging insults and cannot agree on such basic issues as who should run the nation's police and army.
The rift, though unlikely to send Iraq back into sectarian violence, does have Iraqi and Western analysts concerned that the country will continue on a dysfunctional path as American troops move to complete their withdrawal by year's end, nearly nine years after the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Two members of Nouri's State Of Law have been sent out to the press to chat up the line that 'differences will be resolved.' (By the way, Jalal Talabani is in the US. He'll be having his artery work as usual. I'm not seeing any reports on Talabani's arrival.) While they claim the differences will be resolved, AP reports that Iraqiya's Arshad al-Salehi was targeting in a bombing this morning. Iraqiya is Ayad Allawi's political slate and the slate that won the most votes in the 2010 elections. Possibly this is Nouri's way of 'resolving' the conflict? Alsumaria TV reports:

Al Maliki cautioned once again of forming a majority government instead of the present national government. Maliki had warned of dissolving the government along with the Parliament and to call for early elections. This does not serve Iraqiya's interest, he said.
Iraqi Prime Minister rebuked Allawi saying that those calling for consensus want the country to be led by many leaders at a time when rows between Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki and Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi keep on escalating.

Nouri al-Maliki became prime minister-designate in November. To move from prime minister-designate to prime minister, the Constitution required him to nominate his Cabinet and have each member voted on in the Parliament. As usual, the US government ran interference for Nouri and the Constitution was not followed. Which is how, six months later, Iraq still has no Minister of National Security, Minister of Interior or Minister of Defense. The security ministries remain headless. And that may be the strongest indictment of Nouri's 'leadership' yet. Laith Hammoudi and Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) report on the prison riot this weekend:

A weekend attempted jailbreak at Iraq's Interior Ministry that led to the deaths of six police officers and 11 al-Qaida in Iraq suspects involved inside "connivance and collaboration," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Wednesday.
Investigators are trying to determine who smuggled grenades and other weapons to the prisoners for the effort, the second time in four months that al-Qaida in Iraq operatives have infiltrated the police in a bid to free prisoners, al-Maliki said. The incident raised new questions about the competence of Iraq's security forces as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw completely from the country by the end of 2011.
In other prison news, The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "A call on air from one of the Detainees in the Ressafa 9 Prison in Baghdad - militias in plain clothes with masks are attacking the unarmed detainees with knives at this very moment! God be of Help and Protection to the detainees."

Dar Addustour reports that Iraqiya is questioning Nouri's decision to open closed streets in Baghdad and to take down the city's barricades at a time when violence is on the rise.
Turning to some of today's reported violence, the Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "A mass grave has just been found in Amiriyet Al Fallujah - 7 people who had been taken away from the Police in 2007 were found in it!!!! Iraq has been given Law and Order by the American Occupation and this is proved daily!!!!!!" In addition, they note, "ACTIVIST [UMNIYA AL SAMMARAIE]  WAS BEATEN UP AND ARRESTED IN HER HOME YESTERDAY BY SECURITY FORCES AND LED AWAY TO PLACE UNKNOWN." And they add,

Meanwhile Hassan Al-Azzawi (Al Rafidayn) reports that exams are resulting in death. An 18-year-old student took his own life (hanging) over them and a 13-year-old boy was killed by his father for 'failing to study.'
Moving over to England where new revelations emerged from the Iraq Inquiry.  The John Chilcot led inquiry hasn't heard testimony in months but they've released evidence that is in leading the news cycle in England.  Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) calls the release "devestating" and explains, "A top military intelligence official has said the discredited dossier on Iraq's weapons programme was drawn up "to make the case for war", flatly contradicting persistent claims to the contrary by the Blair government, and in particular by Alastair Campbell, the former prime minister's chief spin doctor.  In hitherto secret evidence to the Chilcot inquiry, Major General Michael Laurie said: 'We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care'."  In his [PDF format warning] evidence released today, Laurie wrote:
Alistair Campbell said to the Inquiry that the purpose of the Dossier was not "to make a case for war". I had no doubt at that time this was exactly its purpose and these very words were used.  The previous paper, drafted in February and March, known to us then also as the Dossier, was rejected because it did not make a strong enough case.  From then until September we were under pressure to find intelligence that could reinforce the case.  [Redacted passage.]  I recall Joe French frequently enquiring whether we were missing something; he was under pressure. We could find no evidence of planes, missiles or equipment that related to WMD, generally concluding that they must have been dismantled, buried or taken abroad.  There has probably never  been a greater detailed scrutiny of every piece of ground in any country. 
During the drafting of the final Dossier, every fact was managed to make it as strong as possible, the final statements reaching beyond the conclusions intelligence assessments would normally draw from such facts.  It was clear to me that there was direction and pressure being applied on the JIC and its drafters.
In summary, we knew at the time that the purpose of the Dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care. 

The JIC is a collegiate body and has not, in any significant way, broken ranks over events.
But now, in the form of Michael Laurie, someone serving just below the top tier has expressed his displeasure about the way events have been characterised and particularly the extent to which those collecting intelligence were blamed for getting things wrong.
He is adamant the purpose of the dossier was, indeed, to make a case for war.
His assertion that there was direction and pressure on those drafting the dossier will be deeply uncomfortable for those associated with it.
Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) adds, "The Iraq Inquiry will not produce its final report until September at the earliest, almost a year after it was originally due, the Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot has disclosed. "
"With an information technology budget exceeding $3 billion dollars annually it is reasonable for the American tax payer to expect the office of Information and Technology at VA to effectively utilize available technology and provide the highest quality of support in the Department's delivery of health care and benefits to our nation's veterans," declared US House Rep Bill Johnson yesterday at the start of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight hearing he chaired.  Chair Johnson maintained, "Hundreds of millions of dollars could have been saved in previous years by simply having a robust IT architeture and strategy in place."
The first panel was the VA's Roger Baker.  Among the topics discussed were the VA's decision to move to open sourcing and Subcommittee Chair Johnson was especially concerned about the cost analysis and whether it was concluded before or after VA announced they were switching to open sourcing.  (The answer was not provided.).  Subcommittee Chair Johnson was also bothered by Baker's figures when it came to data centers (62) and servers (37,000) which would come down to 596 physical servers per data center.  Questioned by the Chair, Baker allowed that all of those servers might not be physical ones and that the count wasn't exact (or accurate).  The most important exchange on the first panel was probably as follows.
US House Rep Phil Roe: Just a couple of questions. One, get me a -- so I can get my arms around it, how big is this system when you look at DoD? And how many people are we covering? And just how enormous is this system?
Roger Baker: My -- my understanding of the metrics is that between the two organizations, we have about 15 million annual patients covered by the two electronic health records systems.  Probably between 15 and 20 million health records inside the  two systems. Both of us -- I believe each system individually is among the largest health care organizations in the country.  Both organizations were out in front in adopting electronic health record systems. So it is singularly we are huge, jointly we're massive.
US House Rep Phil Roe: Well the next question is, I guess. is where are we timeline wise? You and I have talked about this before.  On getting this done. Because I think it's absolutely essential that you don't have two parallel massive  that can't talk to each other -- and, obviously, they're not going to be able to talk to each other..   So where are we in that timeline?
Roger Baker: Uh, Congressman, uh, Secretaries Shinseki and Gates absolutely agree with you.  They have put us on a path to achieve a single, common, eletronic health record system.  I can't get out in front of their communication relative to their May 2nd meeting.  I can tell you though that our organizations have been working together for about six months. The most important thing the two secretaries did is to agree that "no" is not an answer.  The answer is "yes" and our organizations should figure out how to make that happen.  That has come together very nicely.   I really have to not go any further than that in order to not get out in front of the Secretaries but we're very --
US House Rep Phil Roe: And are we talking about -- Let's get down a little bit more to when we had the change over, when Secretary Panetta will be there.  I don't know whether he's been brought up to speed or not.  My concern is that he's going to have his -- He's going to be drinking from a firehose when he first gets there.  Just -- I mean he really is.  And where is this priority? I mean, I don't want to sit here two years from now and we're having the same conversation because we get lost. And he's going to be looking at  --- Well three wars, I guess, now and all the other things that he's going to be doing in his new shop.  And needs the infrastructure just below him to keep this ball rolling down the road.
Roger Baker: I believe I could safely say that concern exactly six months ago from Secretary Shinseki's perspective is what kind of lit this discussion off.  I believe our objective and what we will accomplish is to have this nailed down before Secretary Gates leaves.  We expect that Secretary Panetta will also be interested in it. [. . .]
Having wasted millions of dollars in the past on shoddy computers, Baker's inability to do something as basic as count the physical equipment is not reassuring. The second panel was Belinda Finn of the Office of Inspector General for the VA accompanied by Marueen Regan OIG and Joel Willemssen GAO.  And they had no assurance to offer either as they explained what they'd found.
Subcommittee Chair Bill Johnson: Ms. Finn, you mentioned that -- in your testimony -- that they have adequate oversight processes, right?  Did I understand that right?
Belinda Finn: I believe what I referred to was that the policies and procedures for system development seemed adequate in that they reflected, you know, the commonly accepted best business practices for system developments.
Subcommittee Chair Bill Johnson:  Okay, but yet you indicated that the problem was with compliance with those processes.
Belinda Finn:  Yes, the issue was compliance with those processes and the implementation of them.  To be specific, the way they had been promulgated throughout the department sometimes gave managers the impression that they were just guidance and, therefore, not something that they needed to follow or should follow but were, you know, suggestions.
Subcommittee Chair Bill Johnson: Did you see any evidence of  of any emphasis on the compliance issue?  I mean did they have processes in place to identify lack of compliance and mitigating action once they discovered it?
Belinda Finn:  Our audit work was about two years ago and at that time, no, the process was -- did not have a lot of structure and it.
Last night, Ava filled in at Trina's site with "Tell White Anglo Bitch Amy Goodman to stop" about Goodman's decision to 'explore' the status of immigration reform but Goodman did so without a single Latino represented around the table.  Goodman not only needs to be called out, she needs to know she will be or she will continue to play White mistress of the plantation telling everyone what they will do.   As Ava noted, the only reason she bothered to watch the show Wednesday was due to Juan Gonzalez' "President Obama weakly punts immigration reform back to Congress" (New York Daily News):

President Obama said all the right things in El Paso on Tuesday about the need to fix the country's immigration system, while lauding the progress he'd made in controlling the border.

But when the soaring rhetoric was done, Obama closed with a weak punt of immigration reform back to Congress.

Yes We Can turned into No I Can't.

He refused to do what many Latino leaders have urged for months. He rejected using executive powers to soften the worst aspects of the government's crackdown on the nation's 11 million undocumented residents.

He turned his back on 1 million young people known as the DREAMERS. They are the high school and college kids brought to this country illegally by their parents.

Juan Gonzalez is the co-host of Democracy Now! but whenever he gets critical of Barack in a column, he disappears from the show and, just by chance, we're sure, when he writes a column critical of Barack, suddenly Amy Goodman 'forgets' to mention it on air.  That pattern was established in the 2008 Democratic Party primary and has continued to this day.  Goodman needs to stop whoring and she also needs to grasp that she is not and will never be the voice of Latino America.  White Goddess needs to sit her tired ass down and let the people effected actually speak for themselves.
the new york daily news
juan gonzalez