Thursday, July 7, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, more US soldiers are announced dead, Chair of the Joint Chiefs talks US forces in Iraq beyond 2011, Camp Ashraf betrayed?, and more.
Yesterday on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya who has left Canada to report from Libya on the illegal war.
Kevin Pina: So give us an update, what's going on on the ground there?
Mahdi Darius Nazemoraya: Well I did look at some of the press reports being released saying that the gates of Tripoli had been reached by the rebels. That is totally untrue. That is not happening whatsoever. Nothing like that has happened whatsoever. In fact what I am hearing here is contradictory to what the press is saying in North America and Western Europe and that's the western mountains have been regained by the Libyan military -- or as they call it in their reports pro-Gaddafi forces. So there's total contradictions on the ground here and from what I'm seeing there. I also went to the Washington Post, Reuters today. They seem to be getting information from some person named 'Niz.' They all -- If you look through the wires, you're going to see 'Niz said this, Niz said that'. And most of the reports are unverified. They're just quoting Niz, but they're unverified. And I happen to notice while looking through these reports that they're saying he's been talking to them or contacting them through secure internet services. Secure internet services or secure internet lines usually mean like an embassy or something like that. So what is the press doing here? Another thing that was brought up by a Libyan I was talking to while looking at these reports was that the United States government -- especially President Obama -- is establishing shadow internet and shadow phone lines in so-called authoritarian countries as a means to remove the regime. Now if somebody did that in the United States, I think that would be seen as an act of aggression. That's unacceptable. We can't have these type of double standards. And, yes, today was -- today and actually for a while tensions have been brewing between south Sudan and north Sudan. nothing is said Barack will occupy western Sahara where they've actually built fences, you know, fences just like the Israelis have in the West Bank and nothing was said there. The ICC is out to lunch about what happened in Georgia, they still haven't come up with a verdict. But they look at Gaddafi and, in a couple of days, they come up with convictions based mostly on media reports from what I've went through looking at everything that ICC's putting together. So people here are united. They're united more than ever. And that's the feeling you get in Tripoli. It's not what the media is portraying. It's not going to fall anytime soon. There's no rebels at the gates. It's totally different on the ground from what I see here than what the press is reporting.
Kevin Pina: You're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio and that's the voice of Mahdi Nazemoraya. Mahdi is speaking to us directly from Tripoli, Libya. Mahdi, what about news reports -- Well, explain to me first, what is this shadow phone system you're referring to.
Mahdi Darius Nazemoraya: Well reading through the press releases, the wires, there's talking about how secure alternative -- not as in alternative media but alternative internet sources that the governments of these countries can't control are being set up in these countries as a means for so-called activists or opposition groups to organize to overthrow the government. That's basically what they're doing. And this is in the press. Take me to task, listeners should take me to task and look this up. You can find this in the mainstream media where they're talking about shadow internet and shadow phone lines the government can't control. If anybody did that in my country Canada or the United States or they did it in Britain, France, Belgium -- they would end up -- It would be seen as an act of treason. You can't do that. I'm not saying the state [has] to control the internet but you can't set up a system to overthrow the government. That's a hostile act.
Kevin Pina: And you know of course that they barely averted a vote in the US Senate yesterday to support the NATO-led war effort in Libya. It looks as if they're going to try to -- the Democrats are going to try to -- push another vote later next week. And all of this is, of course, predicated upon what is being called a victory that is in sight.
Mahdi Darius Nazemoraya: I don't see a victory in sight. I think that's just talk. I think it's part of the psychological warfare against this country and it's people -- yes, against its people. I want to point out there's a war against the people of this country. When you bomb places that are food storage sites and you bomb places where money is made and when you bomb civilian structures, it's a war against the people, trying to break their spirits.
Former US House Rep Cynthia McKinney (2008 Green Party presidential candidate) was part of a fact finding mission to Libya earlier and Lucy Grider-Bradley -- who has worked with various members of the US Congress including Cynthia and US House Rep Gwen Moore and who is the former program director for Northeast Georgia Black Leadership Council -- also took part in the fact finding mission. On this week's Black Agenda Radio -- hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey, first airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network -- they highlight remarks by lucy Grider-Bradley and Cynthia McKinney.
Glen Ford: We asked Lucy Grider-Bradley if what she saw felt like a war to her?
Lucy Grider-Bradley: Absolutely. I felt bombs, the effect of bombs dropping in the distance. I saw billowing clouds that came up after the horrible sound and the building that I was in shaking. Billows of white, smoke-like substance that turned black as if watching a horror movie. I saw the effects of that bomb. I saw a 30-fooot crater in the middle of a home that belonged to Muammar Gaddafi's son -- where his son was killed and 3 of his grandchildren also murdered from the effects of that bomb. I mean, how do you get a 30-foot hole in the middle of your house? Well I can tell you what I saw -- the results of a UN-US-NATO bomb. The delegation saw a lot. We saw people trying to go about their daily lives, not knowing when the next bomb was going to drop or knowing where the bomb was going to drop. But in spite of it all, they gathered ever evening at the place where the grandchildren and the son were killed to show their support for their leader. I wonder if that kind of thing was happening in the United States, if we would get out and rally behind a leader who was dropping bombs and murdering people -- Black people especially. I don't think I'd be part of that party. But the Libyans definitely support their leader and show it every night despite the fact that there might be bombs dropping. And I also want to say civilians have been murdered. Not just military folks. So the bombs aren't dropping just on what the UN calls military outposts, they're dropping in residential areas in Libya. I think it's important that that point is made over and over and over again.
Glen Ford: And when President Obama denied that he had to comply with the War Powers Act because he was not engaged in hostilities with Libya, how did you feel having just returned from there?
Lucy Grider-Bradley: Well can I just say that I don't listen to him so I didn't hear him say that so I really don't have an opinion. I think about him like I felt about President Bush: If you see his mouth moving he's probably lying.
The Cynthia McKinney excerpt is from her speech at the National Black Theatre in Harlem.
Cynthia McKinney: During the time that I was in Congress, I was asked to take positions that were absolutely not true but people wanted to use my Black face in order to put forward their own agenda. And their own agenda was anti-Black. So they wanted to use the integrity that I had, they wanted me to lease it to them for a small price. In fact, one person, a media person from New York told me that if I just took a particular stand against Sudan then I could be be in Congress for the rest of my life. But what they wanted me to say was a lie. And I did my research, as I always do my research, and I understood what they were asking me to say was not true and so therefore I declined. [Next sentence is drowned out from applause to previous sentence.] But this leasing of the Black face and oppressing people of color within black face was something that moved me and, in fact, when I filed the Articles of Impeachment against George Bush and Dick Cheney, it was important for me to include Condoleezza Rice because she knowingly chose the wrong side. And I went to an elementary school in my district as I was trying to campaign for re-election and there big as day the school, Black History Month, is celebrating who else but Condoleezza Rice. So Condoleezza Rice becomes the role model for our young people. Colin Powell, who lied to the world, becomes a role model for our young people. So this is what they want us to become but this is certainly not what I can contence. So as I am blessed to be able to travel around the world, one of the things that sticks out to me is how Black America, at one point, had moral authority no matter where you went in the world. And if you had a USA passport and your skin was Black, you were respected. You were loved. Because people around the world understood our struggle, understood our oppression and they understood our resistance to the imperial face of the United States. But not so anymore. How long do you think we're going to get a free pass? And now the ultimate insult to my integrity is that we have a Black man bombing Africa. The ultimate insult.
Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) reports that a vote in the House came close to cutting off approproations: "A broader bipartisan amendment from Reps. Amash (R - MI) and Kucinich (D - OH) narrowly failed, with a vote of, 199 - 229. [. . .] Still, the Cole (R - OK0 Amendment, a less ambitious version, managed to pass, which prohibits any funding for equipment, training or advice related to the Libya War in the bill." This morning, before the vote, US House Rep Dennis Kucinich's office noted, "A bipartisan agreement to support an amendment with the broadest coalition of support has been reached by 15 Members of Congress. The bipartisan amendment is cosponsored by Justin Amash (R-MI), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Ron Paul (R-TX), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Walter Jones (R-NC), John Conyers (D-MI), Dan Burton (R-IN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX), Pete Stark (D-CA), Tim Johnson (R-IL), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Mike Honda (D-CA) and Richard Nugent (R-FL)." Alan Silverleib (CNN) notes of the Amash-Kucinich measure, "A relatively slim majority of Republicans voted in favor of the measure, while a large majority of Democrats opposed it."
One of the most interesting aspects about US coverage of the Status Of Forces Agreement being extended or replaced is how the White House keeps saying Iraq will have to ask and reporters run around DC looking for unnamed officials to comment while ignoring what's been and is being reported in the Iraqi press. You might say, "Well the US press feels it's more professional and therefore isn't interested . . ." To which the obvious rejoinder is, "The US isn't interested in Iraqi press or Iraqi reaction? That makes the US press just like the US government.
Today Al Sabaah reports that a unified statement is expected before the end of the month from Parliament. Of course, if recent reports that Nouri intends to sign off on a memorandum of understanding with the US government prove to be correct, the Parliament can say whatever it wants, they will have been bypassed (not unlike the way he bypassed them at the end of 2006 to extend the UN mandate and, again, at the end of 2007 for the same reason). Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that State of Law insiders (Nouri's slate) say Moqtada al-Sadr is the stumbling block currently and that Nouri is weighing the threats Moqtada has made to reactivate the Mahdi milita. State of Law worries about the so-called 'gains' that have been made being lost if the US military leaves. Not all in the political slate are worried about Moqtada and some point out that Nouri is the leader of the Armed Forces as well as the Minister of Defense and Interior so he will have the support of most political blocs when he makes his evaluation. From outside the political slate, some are less optimistic and many point out that the decision should not be Nouri's alone (Osama al-Nujaifi, not noted in this article, has repeatedly maintained that this is a decision that must come before Parliament). Adm Mike Mullen, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, weighed in this afternoon. David Alexander (Reuters) reports that Mullen was "at a luncheon with reporters, maintained that "Iran" (presumably the government of) was supplying Shi'ite militias in Iraq with "high-tech weapons" to kill US soldiers "the forensics prove that." Any agreement to keep US troops on the ground in Iraq beyond 2011, Mullen argued, should include some provision that Iraqi forces will address this alleged supplying of weapons to Shi'ite militias. Viola Gienger (Bloomberg News) observes, "The condition for a U.S. troop extension poses a challenge to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose Shiite Muslim political party has struggled to manage Iran's political and military influence." Meanwhile Charley Keyes (CNN) puts the red across White House flunkie Jay Carney's freshly-facialed face by reporting, "Mullen confirmed that discussion are underway. 'Negotiations are ongoing,' Mullen said, adding that any final decision would be for the presidents of Iraq and the United States. He said any agreement with Iraq 'has to be done in conjunction with control of Iran'." Tuesday at the White House, Carney played dumb (you were playing, right, Jay?) and insisted about any extension that "I really don't have any more information on that possible outcome, because, again we haven't even gotten a request." If negotiations are going on, there are requests on both sides. Helen Thomas (Falls Church News-Press) explains:
As for pulling our troops out of Iraq, don't hold your breath. There are all kinds of official hints that our withdrawal from Iraq may take a longer time than the end of the year deadline.
James F. Jeffrey, the U.S envoy to Iraq, told reporters recently that the U.S would consider keeping some of the 40,000 troops in Iraq to provide security. Of course, some Iraqi officials who have played ball with the U.S. occupation would like us to remain in the country. But the car bombings and explosions have not stopped.
Obama has ordered the withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Afghanistan, the beginning of the end of the 10-year war. As for Afghanistan, we had more reason to go in (although there were neither Afghans nor Iraqis involved in 9/11).
Obama had one big chance to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan - the day after he took the oath of office. He could have saved thousands of lives and would have been called a hero by many. Instead, Obama maintained the Bush War scenario and kept the wars going.
America has to decide who we are -- and why we are trying to sell democracy with guns and bombs.
Today there are more US deaths in Iraq. The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe Tweeted:
Lara Jakes (AP) reports the bombing was "outside the main American military base in Baghdad". Julian E. Barnes (Wall St. Journal) adds, "Officials believe an explosively formed projectile, many of which are manufactured in Iran, was responsible. The weapons are designed to penetrate layers of armor." As of 10:00 AM EST this morning, the Pentagon's count of US military personnel killed in the Iraq War stood at 4472. -- 51 of those deaths since Barack pronounced the end of 'combat operations' August 31st. Last month, 15 US soldiers died in the Iraq War.
Iraq War veteran Adam Kokesh is now the host of RT's Adam vs. The Man which airs on RT each weeknight at 7:00 pm (EST). Yesterday's broadcast included this commentary:
Adam Kokesh: Hey, remember that time Barack Obama was a senator and he was just running for president? You remember when he said the first thing he was going to do as president was pull US forces out of Iraq?
Footage of Candidate Barack Obama: I will promise you this that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.
Adam Kokesh: Yeah. But then remember that instead the first thing he took to the bank was all of your bail out money? Well it turns out there's still too many kinks in that whole getting out of Iraq thing to make it a reality. We were slated to finally pull out by year's end. Yes, 2011. But now the AP is reporting that the White House is offering -- "offering" -- to leave 10,000 US troops behind. Iraqis expressed their gratitude today by shooting at some American convoys. Now that's what I call friendly fire. It's good we're showing so much generousity towards the Arab world, surely the tide of anti-Americanism will turn if we stick it out just a little while longer. Seems the Pentagon is crossing their fingers for a troop request from Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's government in Iraq but I'm going to guess just one way or another they'll find or create a way and a reason to stay.
Jack Cafferty (CNN) observes the same promises from Barack and notes that "Now as that deadline for military withdrawal from Iraq approaches, he's apparently prepared to break that promise. Gee, what a surprise."
On the topic of crossed fingers -- in terms of lying, not good luck -- how do you tell a group of people to disarm and swear that you'll protect them and then don't? Ask Barack Obama who refused to repudiate the acts of George W. Bush so he embraced them. The Bush administration promised the residents of Camp Ashraf (approximately 3400 Iranian dissidents in Iraq) that they would be protected. They've instead been repeatedly slaughtered. The most recent blood bath, April 8th, by the Iraqi military was so bad that US Senator John Kerry termed it a "massacre." Sunday Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) filed an important report on Camp Ashraf. Recapping, US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey can't understand why residents of Camp Ashraf (who unarmed after the US government promised to protect them) don't want to leave their area and disperse throughout Iraq living as, in his word, "refugees." Nima Sharif's "US gives Iranian Opposition Choice: Die or Commit Suicide" (Stop Fundamentalism) points out:
The fact of the matter is that the residents of Camp Ashraf who died last April – 36 of them including 8 women – were killed when the Iraqi military forces raided their camp. That makes Ambassador Jeffery's remarks refereeing to a "place a bit safer" puzzling. Does he mean that there is actually a place in Iraq where Iraqi forces cannot attack the residents and have no access to? Logic suggests that if the Iraqi forces are determined to slaughter the members of the Iranian main opposition movement, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI), they can do so anywhere in Iraq. Moreover, what does he mean when he say "a bit safer?" Does he mean that next time less people will be killed and that is acceptable to the U.S.?
But in reality, since Camp Ashraf currently receives some minimal international attention, the only place that is "a bit safer" for the residents in Iraq is in fact Camp Ashraf.
The camp residents have already announced their complete agreement to the European plan for their resettlement outside Iraq to resolve the situation once and for all. They consider that the only party disagreeing with their relocation outside Iraq would be the Iranian regime; rather it wants all the 3400 residents of the camp to be destroyed. In fact it has been the Iranian regime and its Iraqi collaborators who have been calling for their relocation inside Iraq for the past few weeks.
But I have made it clear in all discussions with the Iraqi Government that we are not willing to enter into any negotiations with them unless four key pre-conditions are met. Firstly, the military forces must be withdrawn from Camp Ashraf. Secondly, the siege of the camp which has gone on uninterrupted for more than two years, involving hundreds of loudspeakers blaring high decibel threats and propaganda 24 hours a day - plus interruptions to vital medical, energy and water supplies - must immediately stop. Thirdly, there must be an independent inquiry into the massacre on April 8 - with the perpetrators identified and brought to justice. And fourthly, those critically injured during the April 8 attack must be given immediate access to proper hospital care. In other words, the Iraqi government must restore an environment as near to normality as possible in Ashraf, before negotiations can begin on the long-term resolution to this crisis.
Only if these conditions are met will we have confidence that the Iraqi authorities really do intend to bring this situation to a positive conclusion. But during this period of transition the UN will have to take control over the safety and security of the camp, ensuring the residents receive all necessary living and medical supplies. At the same time, a committee will be set up to take the plan forward - consisting of key individuals from the EU, US, UN and Arab League as well as members of Iraq's government and parliament, residents from Camp Ashraf and the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
Baroness Ashton and the EU Foreign Affairs Council, together with the US President and the UN Secretary General, must now back this solution and throw their weight behind it in order to ensure that the lives of 3,400 Iranians are saved and Iraq moves along a path upon which respect for human rights and the rule of law is prevalent, in a land which has been mired in violence for too long.
Yesterday at the US State Dept, Victoria Nuland was asked about Camp Ashraf:
QUESTION: A couple of months ago, a senior State Department official rolled out a U.S. plan for relocating the residents of Camp Ashraf, saying that there was a concern in this building that they face the potential for more violence against them if they stay where they are. The head of that group is now going around telling media outlets that they're rejecting this plan sort of outright, that they won't consider it. I'm wondering if that rejection has been communicated directly to you, and is there a Plan B if the U.S. -- what's the next step as far as the U.S. is concerned regarding the Camp Ashraf situation?
MS. NULAND: We are continuing to work with the Government of Iraq, with the Ashraf leadership, with all of our international partners on a plan to relocate the camp. This is an ongoing dialogue. We want to see this done in a way that avoids further violence and leads to a long-term solution. So this is an ongoing process and our goals, I think, remain the same, which is to see an appropriate settlement of the issue.
QUESTION: But if they're rejecting this plan, then clearly, you have to find another path to reach those goals, don't you?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don't want to speak to the specifics of the negotiation that we're having, both with the Iraqi Government and with the Ashraf leadership. I think those talks will continue.
Asked about it today, Nuland was confused as to when she'd last addressed it declaring, "I don't have anything to -- new to report with regard to the MEK status on the terrorist list. I did speak to the Ashraf issue yesterday or the day before. Just to reiterate, we continue to work actively with the Government of Iraq, with the Asraf leadership, with our internal partners to come up with a plan to relocate the Ashraf residents and we're still working on that together."
Reuters notes that today's violence included 1 woman being shot dead in Baquba and her husband being left injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left four people injured.
Turning to the US where Barack Obama's promise to end Don't Ask, Dont Tell didn't result in it ending but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals did what Barack refused to do and yesterday announced the end of the discrimination. As Marcia observed yesterday, DADT was overturned "not by Barack. It took adults to end it and Barack's just an overgrown (and spoiled) child." A child who likes to play war.
15 US soldiers died last month in the Iraq War. One of them was Sgt Matthew Gallagher. Sean Teehan (Boston Herald) reminds that his loved ones have to deal with both the loss and the military's 'confusion' -- they told the family he died conducting a house sweep and have since backed off of that statement and now state his death is under investigation while insisting it was a 'non-combat death.' Teehan opens with Katie Gallagher, "The 22-year-year-old widow of Army Sgt. Matthew R. Gallagher lay across the flag-draped casket of her husband yesterday, burying her face in her arms before succumbing to sobs." The Cape Cod Times notes, "A funeral Mass is set to begin at 11 a.m. [today] at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in North Falmouth. Burial at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne will follow. Gallagher is the 11th soldier with ties to Cape Cod to die in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2006." Spc Dylan Johnson also died last month. Manny Gamallo (Tulsa World) reports on the 20-year-old's memorial yesterday:
Jeff Johnson told mourners that a few things agitate him in his daily life and that a few things agitated his son, as well - primarily the heat and dust of Iraq.
He said his son has now left him with a valuable lesson - "to ignore the small agitating things and to concentrate on loving your family and friends every day, because none of us will ever know when it is our June 26."
The soldier's mother, Joy Sehl, also spoke to mourners, telling them of her heartbreak but also saying how proud she was of her son.
She read a tribute from one of her son's best friends, Pfc. Anthony Santiago of Placerville, Calif.
Santiago wrote that he had always wanted a little brother and finally got one when Dylan Johnson entered his life.
Last month Iraq War veteran James Keenan apparently took his own life. Elizabeth Dinan (Sea Coast Online) reports he died June 29th ("self-inflicted gunshot wound") and suffered from PTSD which Greg Chabot ("who served in an Army National Guard artillery unit with Keenan") says took his life, "He was one of the younger guys, very squared away and wouldn't hesitate to help another guy out. I don't know if he slipped through the cracks or was overlooked." Sheila Keenan says of her son, "My son, my hero. I'm not angry. I know why. They can't deal with what happened." Yochi J. Dreazen (National Journal) observes, "In 2010, 301 active-duty, reserve, and National Guard soldiers committed suicide, up from 242 in 2009. In 2008, the military's suicide rate exceeded that of the general population for the first time ever."
Meanwhile Leroy and Rosie Torres continue to raise awareness of the effects of the burn pits. In Iraq and in Afghanistan, the military and contractors are exposed to burn pits which aren't safe and which are used to burn off everything (including medicines) producing damaging fumes. Leroy Torres is an Iraq War veteran who was exposed while serving. KRIS TV reports:
We last spoke with him in January when the cold air was taking it's toll on his lungs.
Now, he is getting treatment in Denver at the National Jewish Medical Center, but he says the cost for medical bills is also taking its toll.
"Unfortunately, I haven't been successful with the VA. They denied my claim- my reimbursement. All of that was denied," he said.
As Leroy continues fighting for his own health and benefits, his wife Rosie, who we also met back in January, says she is fighting for awareness and help for everyone affected by burn pits.
Last month, she went to Washington DC to meet with legislators.
She says she spoke with local Representative Blake Farenthold, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and more about how to make changes on national policies which she says are preventing these victims from getting adequate care.
Her focus: creating a national registry for burn pit victims.
Evan Bayh proposed a national registry for burn pit victims. He put forward a bill and even appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to testify on behalf of the bill. Senator Jim Webb -- who, months later, would go on to screw over Vietnam veterans suffering from Agent Orange -- blocked the bill from going forward and it died in committee. Bayh elected not to run for re-election and no one else in the Senate has picked up this issue and run with it. Bayh and Senator Byron Dorgan regularly explored and investigated this issue via the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. Like Bayh, Dorgan decided not to run for re-election in 2010.