Monday, July 04, 2011

McCain and others talk continued Iraq War

US Senator John McCain tells Anna Fifield (Finanical Times of London -- link has text and video) that the US neeeds to keep troops on the ground in Iraq, "I'm talking 10,000-13,000 specifically for intelligence capabilities, air capabilities and also as a peacekeeping force up in the disputed areas around Kirkuk and that area." McCain's currently on the ground in Afghanistan with other US Senators including Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham so one might assume he'd focus on that country but Iraq and the non-withdrawal seems to be a theme several are discussing today. Sabah Jawad of the London-based Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation speaks with Iran's Press TV (link has text and video) and declares of the US:

Yes it's quite obvious they don't want to withdraw, they don't even want to withdraw now more than before because of the uprisings that have taken place in the Arab world; they want to keep their military presence in Iraq. As you said they have the biggest embassy here in Iraq and also that this embassy is supposed to staff over 16,000 employees. I don't know of any other country where the Americans have a 16,000 staff in their embassies. This is an indication that these people will be in full control of the security situation in Iraq -- security operations. They will control Iraq's air space and the Iraqi economy. They will advise every important minister in Iraq and they will continue to interfere in the internal situation in Iraq for the foreseeable future. So these all are indications for the future that the US does not want to withdraw from Iraq. They have invested a lot of money in the occupation of Iraq and they continue the occupation of Iraq and they want to be there to steal even more oil and to tie up Iraq in its entirety to the so-called free market and to multinational oil companies.

Jeremy R. Hammond (Foreign Policy Journal) reviews
polling of Iraqis from throughout the illegal war on whether or not they want US forces in their country - repeatedly and consistently the people say no. Will it matter?

I don't think so. Maybe with another prime minister, maybe not. But Nouri al-Maliki's the prime minister and it didn't matter to him in 2006 when he extended the UN mandate without Parliament's approval. No, big deal, he swore he'd get the approval of Parliament next time. 2007 draws to a close and Nouri extends it again. Without the Parliament. Woops. 2008, he and the Parliament -- or those who showed up that November date -- back the three-year extension known as the Status Of Forces Agreement. His comments then and since 2008 have continued to overlook (at best) Iraqi sentiment. In addition, to ram through the SOFA in November 2008, he promised the people would get a voice, there would be a referendum on it in July.

Don't check the calendars or datebooks for that event because it's not this month. It was supposed to have taken place in July 2009. It didn't. It never took place. 2011 will end without the Iraqi people ever being given the referendum Nouri al-Maliki promises.

A few e-mails note Moqtada al-Sadr's efforts (or rumored efforts). Basra did say no to US forces remaining in Iraq beyond 2011, said so last month. Moqtada's organization is supposedly trying to get all regions to pass resolutions. That could have an effect, some insist.

I don't see it. And let me tell you why. In February 2003, a friend had to bail on a scheduled speaking tour about the Iraq War because it was a low key tour and a bigger one had come along. She asked me if I could fill in for her. No problem. And that's when I start going to colleges and speaking out against the Iraq War (and to women's groups and labor groups and other groups). During this, I criss-cross with many people. I'm arriving on a campus either before or after someone just left. For example, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. I applaud their work and I endorse their work and Chip Pitts' a great guy. But the reality is that they got a ton of cities, US cities, to pass resolutions against the Patriot Act. And did that end the Patriot Act?

No. It's still in effect. Bush left office, but Barack grabbed the baton. Just as with the Iraq War. So Moqtada or whomever can get all the provinces in Iraq to pass resolutions and I don't think it's going to matter. That's before you even factor in Nouri's inability to cede power to provinces. When he feels his power is challenged by a province, Nouri tends to send in the Iraqi military.

Anything's possible but an educated guess is a guess you base on the past record and the past record doesn't indicate that cities or provinces are going to get the last word on this issue.

Al Mada reports today (actually tomorrow, the time change) that "well-informed sources" (unidentified by the paper) are stating that the discussions taking place between the government and the US Embassy on US troops staying beyond 2011 continue and that what is being discussed currently is a memorandum which would allow for US forces to remain in Iraq for another five years and it is thought that going that route (memorandum of understanding) would allow Nouri to bypass the Parliament. (Al Mada also does a write up of Tim Arango's NYT report on US Special Forces.)

Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports that the US State Dept is asking (the US government -- a point Press TV is lost on) for $6 billion just for the US Embassy in Iraq. On other topics beyond belief, Al Rafidayn reports that US Ambassador James Jeffrey declared that Iraq could be an important source of natural gas for Europe. Really? July 1st, AFP reported, " Iraq signed a $365-million (252-million-euro) contract for Iran to build a pipeline to supply natural gas to power stations in Baghdad, a spokesman for Iraq’s electricity ministry said on Friday. The 220-km (140-mile) pipeline will eventually supply 25 million cubic metres of natural gas per day from Iran to power stations in the Quds and Sadr City districts of eastern Baghdad, and two more in the capital's south, said Musab al-Mudaris." That contract better not be longterm. Jeffrey looks very foolish. I think he does a far better job than Chris Hill ever could but Jeffrey's obviously having a bad day.

Press TV's report we linked to at the top makes a claim that the US is demanding that Iraq foot the US embassy bill. That's not true. And I just rolled my eyes watching the video and thought, "Press TV." But reading the Al Rafidayn story, it's not Press TV. James Jeffrey's remarks were very unclear and did allow for misunderstandings. (He's jumbling two different topics and, when one involves billions of dollars, you need to take care.) Jeffrey, the face of the US in Iraq, should have been a lot clearer in his remarks and I'm sure Press TV isn't the only outlet that's heard Jeffrey's remarks and concluded that he's asking the Iraqi government to foot the costs of the US Embassy in Iraq. As the remarks are presented by Al Rafidayn, it's easy to understand how Press TV and anyone else could misunderstand. Staying on the topic of the US Embassy in Iraq, we'll note this from Ed O'Keefe's Washington Post report on the Fourth of July ceremony there today:

There's a plaque on a wall at the U.S. Embassy that memorializes the 31 diplomats, staffers and contractors killed in action since the Iraq war began, a poignant reminder of the risks taken by those living and working here.
At the embassy's Independence Day reception Monday, amid the obligatory talk of diplomatic progress and budding business ventures, Ambassador James F. Jeffrey noted the sacrifice of his colleagues.
"Our national anthem played here and everywhere in America today sings of 'rockets' red glare, bombs bursting in air,' merely stirring words for most Americans, but grim reminders to you who serve in Iraq that freedom comes at a price," Jeffrey said.

O'Keefe and Aziz Alwan report
on the wave of attacks today and over the weekend. Reuters notes today's violence includes a Baghdad rocket attack which claimed 3 lives (hotel worker) with eight more left injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which left one person injured, 1 person shot dead in Hilla, 1 police officer shot dead outside his Mosul home, a Mosul bombing which injured "two [Iraqi] soldiers and a child," a Mosul roadside bombing which injured five member of the Iraqi military, another Mosul roadside bombing which injured an Iraqi solider, Saleh Shaker ("Kurdish politician") was shot dead in Saadiya, a Kirkuk sticky bombing injured two people, a Haditha suicide bomber was shot dead by Iraqi police which detonated the bomb and left one police officer injured, a Baghad suicide bomber took his own life and left five Iraqi soldiers injured, a Saqlawiya car bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers with four more left wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the lives of 3 police officers and left four mroe injured and, dropping back to Sunday for what follows, 1 police officer shot dead on Palsetine Street in Baghdad, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 2 lives and left two people injured, 1 college employee was shot dead in Baghdad, 1 police officer was shot dead by his Kirkuk home, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and a Mosul roadside bombing left one person injured. Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) does a rundown of the violence and counts 11 dead and thirty-five wounded today alone.

We'll close with this from Chris Hedges' "Ralph Nader Is Tired Of Running for President" (Information Clearing House):

“There will be more and more people in the streets, homeless and hungry,” he said of the looming cuts. “Babies will be sick. Everything will be overloaded from the free food to the clinics. You never know where the spark will come from. Look at the guy who robbed the bank for a dollar. That was not quite the spark, but that is what I am talking about. This is what you have to do to get health care. Let’s say 50 people did that. There are a lot of dry tinder piles like that."
The death of liberal institutions that once made incremental and piecemeal reform possible, which once could respond to the suffering of the poor, the unemployed and working men and women, which once sought to protect the Earth on which we depend for life, means the last thin hope for reform is embodied in acts of civil disobedience. There are no established institutions that will help us. The press ignores the cries of the underclass and the poor. The labor movement is atrophied and dying. Public education is degraded and being rapidly dismantled. Our religious institutions no longer engage in the core issues of justice. And the Democratic Party is on its knees before Wall Street. The most basic government services designed to ameliorate the pain, including Head Start and Social Security, are targeted by our corporate overlords for destruction. The Kyoto Protocol, which was not nearly ambitious enough to prevent environmental collapse, has been gutted so companies like Exxon Mobil can continue to amass the largest profits in history.
Radical reform, including a breaking of our dependence on fossil fuel, must happen soon to thwart the effects of dramatic climate change and economic disintegration. And this radical reform will come only through us. I will join, for this reason, those planning the prolonged occupation of Washington on Oct. 6. Acts of civil disobedience are our last, thin line of defense against chaos. Make a resolution this Independence Day to join us. You owe it to your children and to the generations who come after us. I am not naive enough to promise you we can reverse these trends. I know the monolith we challenge. But I do know that if we do not begin to take part in these nonviolent protests then we have, in effect, given up all realistic hope of change and succumbed meekly to corporate enslavement, environmental catastrophe and severe social unrest.
“The first sign that there is a real breakdown is that the bridge between the people you mentioned and the people who should be speaking out as a result of their professional status is not there,” Nader said. “I am talking about the deans of law schools and law professors, as well as leading members of the bar. The obverse of that is that in 2005 and 2006 there was a bridge built. It was the president of the [American Bar Association] Michael Greco. He thought the destruction of the rule of law by George Bush was historically very dangerous. He commissioned three reports, using members of the ABA who were formally in national security agencies such as the FBI, the NSA, the CIA and the Justice Department. They came up with three white papers on three subjects, one of them being signing statements. They concluded that the recurrent violations by President Bush had risen to the state of serious violations of our Constitution. These papers were made public. They sent them to President Bush. He never replied. Apart from The Associated Press, the press, including the [New York] Times and the [Washington] Post, ignored it. That to me was a much bigger litmus test. It showed how deep the institutionalized official illegality has become, more important than the ignoring of people like Chomsky and us.
“Usually people who are candid in calling things as they are, are viewed as people on the outside who want to change the system,” Nader said. “In the historic past they were socialists. They were radical labor leaders such as the [Industrial Workers of the World]. This time those people who are speaking out want a restoration of the rule of law. This is a pretty conservative goal. The extreme radicals are now in charge of our country, the military-industrial complex and the White House. It is not so much the military as the civilian leadership, the neocons in the White House. The military does not like to get into wars, but once they are in it is very hard to control them because they want to win.
“It’s not like Japan in 1939, which really was a militaristic society,” Nader went on. “It is exactly the opposite of what the constitutional founders thought would be the case. They put the civilians in charge to restrain the military. In effect, these people are activating and pushing the military into places the military does not want to go. They use a volunteer Army, flatter it, give it a lot of weaponry and send it abroad. Only about 5 million people, soldiers and their families, feel what is going on. Once it is entrenched, once you accept this neocon ideology, which is a vitriolic, aggressive, empire-spreading ideology, run largely by draft dodgers who in their youth gung-hoed the Vietnam War but wanted their friends to go and die for it, then democracy is too weak to overcome that. Two dozen people plunged this country into war. The first arena designed to stop this is the Congress, but it does not observe its constitutional duties or require a declaration of war.”

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