Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, August 30, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, Danny Schecter offers up some reflection, a journalist is attacked in the KRG, additional info out of England about Blair's pre-war planning, and more.
Danny Schechter pens a piece at ZNet where he admits he snorted the Kool-Aid. But while I hope Danny will return to the real world, it's very much true that time makes 2008 a little hazy for Danny.
He writes, "I was denounced as a super sexist by a few for not buying into her [Hillary] centrist Clintonista crusade."
Actually, I think you were called a sexist for the use of terms like: "Clintonista." Hillary ran for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and did win the popular vote and you're belittling her as a "Clintonista"?   Ruth can (and I'm sure will) respond at her site.  She posted on Danny's sexism resulting in an e-mail exchange with Danny (that he initiated).  Unless he's got amnesia, he knows exactly why he was called a sexist.  He's an alleged media critic, a self-proclaimed "News Dissector," and yet he refused to call out the constant sexist attacks aimed at Hillary? (While engaging in his own.)  
That's not a minor point.  If you're a media critic, you call out press attacks -- and, yes, that includes sexism.  Things got worse at News Dissector after Barack became the nominee.  Suddenly, we're getting a ton of e-mails here from his readers about what the hell happened?  Danny had created a space, they thought, where various views were welcome.  You didn't have to be a Democrat or even vote to be welcome at Media Channel.  Then suddenly he was Uber Partisan.  He ran off his audience.
And I keep stopping and saying, "Delete that," as I dictate this.  Pulling punches.  When I really shouldn't.  Barack's position on Iraq was always known.  Bill Clinton rightly termed it a "fairy tale."  Long before Bill did that, I had heard similar from US House Rep Bobby Rush.  Danny claims he had no way of knowing the truth about Barack.  I believe Glen Ford and Bruce Dixon were documenting truths about Barack in 2008 at Black Agenda Report (including the DLC membership which Danny feels he had no way of knowing).
The "News Dissector" was silent on sexism and he was silent on homophobia.  I like Danny, despite the 2008 crazy, and the column makes me more likely to link to him in the future.  But we paid for telling the truth here.  We were delinked by many sites -- including Danny's -- and that's fine -- sites that repeatedly asked us to promote them and that we repeatedly promoted. But when push came to shove, we told the truth and we did so in real time.  And the thanks for that was that we were attacked and trashed and delinked from a number of sites -- sites that still send things to the public account wanting links.  And having paid for being the Cassandra, I won't just say, "Great job, Danny!"  I'll note that he's been more honest than anyone thus far --- and I'll applaud him for that sincerely, but I'll note there's not full honesty.
I was talking to a friend about this last week -- someone who knows Danny from his ABC days -- and I said -- of this entire period and of much more than just Danny, "A part of me wants to let go of it.  And if I weren't doing stuff online, I probably would.  But this was such a breakdown for the left, this was such a pivotal moment.  And to act as if it didn't happen would encourage it -- and beg for it -- to happen again." 
Danny has gone further than any of his crowd in taking accountability and I say, "Good for him."  And I mean that.  But I also mean that what happened never should have.  And I keep remembering the e-mails, like from the guy who had followed Danny since 2003, heard him speak somewhere (I'm blanking on the location) and just couldn't believe that the Danny of 2008 was the same Danny he'd been reading all that time.  And I remember the shock of so many LGBT-ers on the left who refused to drink the Kool-Aid and couldn't believe that Barack's constant use of homophobia was not being called out.  That's where the thrown under the bus usage comes from.  Bit by bit, Barack threw (while people like Danny looked the other way) one segment of the left under the bus, one segment after another.
I would love to read Danny writing a piece -- even a paragraph -- explaining how he justified ignoring the use of sexism and homophobia by the campaign.  Or of giving delegates to a candidate not on the ballot.  Or stopping a floor count at the convention when Nancy Pelosi was afraid that the vote would be too close and Barack might not be the winner.  Do we believe in count every vote or not?  Was our outrage over Bush v. Gore motivated solely by a dislike for Bush? Or we rightly offended that the will of the people was thrwarted?  Until those issues are addressed, the same thing could happen in five more years. (I doubt it will happen next year just because so many have realized how badly they've damanged their repuations.)  And, to be clear for those late to the party, Danny wasn't the only one and I don't think he can even be termed the worst or the top twenty worst.  But he's the media critic, he's the News Dissector, he's the one who's written books about people coming together to overcome.  And he got taken in by a media creation -- one John Pilger was calling out in real time as a media creation.
So how did it happen and how do we make sure it doesn't happen again?
It's not a minor issue to me.  The only reason I'm still stuck online is because of Barack and the idiotic notion that he was going to end the Iraq War.  Still hasn't happened, has it?  Support for him had real life implications especially for the Iraqi people.  Repeating, how do we make sure that "2008: The Year of Living Hormonally" never happens again?  Last night Betty quoted Joan Didion on the 2008 crazy and we should note it again because a lot of people have forgotten Joan's remarks:
What troubled had nothing to do with the candidate himself.
It had to do instead with the reaction he evoked.
Close to the heart of it was the way in which only the very young were decreed of capable of truly appreciating the candidate. Again and again, perfectly sentient adults cited the clinching of arguments made on the candidate's behalf by their children -- by quite small children. Again and again, we were told that this was a generational thing, we couldn't understand. In a flash we were sent back to high school, and we couldn't sit with the popular kids, we didn't get it. The "Style" section of The New York Times yesterday morning mentioned the Obama t-shirts that "makes irony look old."
Irony was now out.
Naivete translated into "hope" was now in.
Innocence, even when it looked like ignorance, was now prized.
Partisanship could now be appropriately expressed by consumerism.
I could not count the number of snapshots I got emailed showing people's babies in Obama gear.
Now I couldn't count the number of terms I heard the terms "transformational" or "inspirational." The whole of election night I kind of kept dozing on and off and the same people were on always on television and every time I woke up
to them they were saying "transformational."
I couldn't count the number of times I heard the sixties evoked by people with no apparent memory that what drove the social revolution of the sixties was not babies in cute t-shirts but the kind of resistance to that decade's war that in the case of our current wars, unmotivated by a draft, we have yet to see.
It became increasingly clear that we were gearing up for another close encounter with militant idealism by which I mean the convenient redefinition of political or pragmatic questions as moral questions -- which makes those questions seem easier to answer at a time when the nation is least prepared to afford easy answers.
As Danny rightly notes, "He took an anti-war stance on pragmatic grounds only, preferring Afghanistan to Iraq. He hasn't extricated us from either battlefield."  And that's due to the Cult of St. Barack.  As we noted at Third in December 2008, alleged leaders of the peace movement were disgracing themselves.  In that piece, we quote one of the only people who can hold their head high today:
Debra Sweet (World Can't Wait) noted of UPFJ's recent session:

Not to directly challenge Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan is shameful. On the anniversary of "Shock & Awe," and under a new president, the anti-war movement needs to be in Washington. And many of us WILL be there.
World Can't Wait wrote a
letter to the anti-war movement. We posed:

"We in this country, and those of us in this movement, have a choice. We can side with our government, with the "good war" fought in our names, and act like American lives are more important than anyone else's lives.Or we can show the people living in the Middle East, and the world, that in the U.S. there is a difference between the people and their government, and that the people are taking responsibility to end an unjust war and the war crimes that have been carried out in our name. We can act like we care about the whole planet."
If everyone had shown the same courage and determination as Debra Sweet and World Can't Wait, you better believe all US troops would be out of Iraq and the administration wouldn't be in negotiations with Nouri al-Maliki today to figure out how many troops they're both comfortable with keeping beyond 2011.
The decision to 'block for Barack' and abandon demands like "OUT OF IRAQ NOW!"  had real world consequences. For example, Iraq Body Count is considered a conservative count.  For 2010, they count 4,045 Iraqis killed. The dead aren't coming back.  In this Antiwar Radio segment, Angela Keaton talks with Scott Horton about the efforts to build a left-right antiwar movement. Those working on that issue have done real work in the last years and deserve real credit (including Angela Keaton). (And Scott Horton who's made it a big and reoccuring topic on his radio program.)
John Glaser's overseeing Antiwar.com's Blog and he's also posting on the main site including about a newly released US State Dept cable, released by WikiLeaks:

The cable excerpts a letter written by Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, addressed to then Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. American troops approached the home of Faiz Harrat Al-Majma'ee, a farmer living in central Iraq, to conduct a house raid in search of insurgents in March of 2006.
"It would appear that when the MNF [Multinational Forces] approached the house," Alston wrote, "shots were fired from it and a confrontation ensued" before the "troops entered the house, handcuffed all residents and executed all of them." Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28), his wife Sumay'ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra'a (aged 5) Aisha ( aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz's mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz's sister (name unknown), Faiz's nieces Asma'a Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid.

And that may remind some of the 2007 killing Michael Ware observed. And one may wonder why the US government thought they had any right to conceal this news from the American public. That makes them as guilty as those who shot and killed that family. And when the US government knows about the killing of a five-month-old baby, they better be able to say someone was punished. Maybe Condi & crew can write about that in their little no-tell-alls? Refusal to do so should result in every interview starting with a reference to the above cable that no-one-could-have-guessed should have read. It might take a little pressure. As I remember her 9-11 commission testimony, it took a lot of pressure to get no-one-could-have-guessed to identify the PDB's title "bin Laden determine to strike in the US."

And, to be clear, most likely no one was punished. You never heard about the slaughter until WikiLeaks released the cable. Any good defense attorney would have been aware that the US govenrment wanted to keep a lid on the story and if his or her client was being prosecuted would have floated the threat of going public.
Yesterday's snapshot included, "Today Chris Ames and Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) report that in October 2002, Bush and Blair decided they need not seek a second resolution to declare war on Iraq.  This comes via an October 17, 2002 letter Tony Blair's secretary Matthew Rycroft wrote to then-Foreign Minister Jack Straw's secretary Mark Sedwill." I also disagreed with their summarization of a section of the letter (with the "That was the only way they could persuade the Bush administration to . . .") and noted the letter might be posted at Chris Ames' Iraq Inquiry Digest.  He has posted it [PDF format warning] here.  Here's the section they summarized yesterday:
The meeting concluded that the only way to keep the US on the UN route was for there to be a clear understanding that if Blix reported an Iraqi breach of the first Resolution then Saddam would not have a second chance. In other words, if for some reason (such as a French or Russian veto) there were no second Resolution agreed in those circumstances, we and the US would take action.
That fits with the interpretation that seemed to emerge from the Iraq Inquiry -- at least Roderic Lyne's line of questioning.  The letter has stronger wording than the article's summary of that section.  That may be due to the press narrative of Tony Blair as weak poodle.  The problem with those media characters of Blair and Bush was always if Bush was such an idiot, how did he keep Blair on a leash?  What's emerged in testimony to the Iraq Inquiry fits with the letter: Blair led Bush.  "The meeting concluded that the only way to keep the US on the UN route . . ."  Whose leading in that sentence?  It's not the White House, it's not Bush.  Blair's getting his way.  They're both War Criminals and this interpretation (which could be completely wrong -- I'm often wrong) doesn't change that.  But there's been, in the US, a desire to demonize Bush but look at Blair with pity.  Blair wasn't tugged along, Blair was leading the way.  And his desire for regime change, established in the public testimony, predates Bush being given the White House by the Supreme Court.
Chris Ames offers an indepth analysis on the meaning of that letter especially when combined with a statement by Michael Wood:
But the recently published statement of Michael Wood, who was in October 2002 and subsequently the Foreign Office's (top) legal adviser, to which the story also refers, may turn out to be as significant as the Rycroft letter in demolishing Goldsmith's explanation for changing his mind about the legality of the war. Wood makes very clear that everyone, including the Americans, knew that the proposed resolution did not provide legal cover for war and that talk of American red lines was smoke and mirrors.
On page 8 of his statement Wood describes the various diplomatic exchanges in mid October 2002 concerning the "new American compromise language" for the resolution and specifically for what became "virtually unchanged" operational paragraph 12 (OP12) of the resolution that would be unanimously agreed three weeks later. He reveals that on 16 October Britain's UN ambassador (Jeremy Greenstock) repeated to his American counterpart what foreign secretary Jack Straw had said to his American counterpart, Colin Powell, "that we needed a second resolution and that it was extremely unlikely that we could find a legal base without it". Greenstock also said that after the resolution was passed "the explanations of vote were likely to make it unequivocally clear that there needed to be a second resolution". On 17 October, Straw told his French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin, that the Americans acknowledged that the wording of the resolution "implied that there needed to be a second SCR".
David Owen is a former UK Foreign Secretary (1977 - 1979) he currently leads the Social Democratic Party and is a member of the British Parliament's House of Lords.  Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports that Owen is calling for the Rycroft letter to be turned over to the Iraq Inquiry and for the Inquiry to make the letter public.
In Iraq, protests return to Tahrir Square in Baghdad on September 9th (protests were halted during Ramadan). The Great Iraqi Revolution notes today, "In an attempt to sabotage the coming demonstrations, the deputy of PM Maliki's party, the State of Law Coalition, stated that 'there are internal and external parties that will try to use the demonstration in 9/9 to overthrow the government, calling on all political forces to unite to thwart these external and internal challenges' !!" Meanwhile Political Stalemate II continues and gets closer to nine months. At this rate, it may end up surpassing Political Statement I in terms of length of time. Al Mada reports that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is again planning on hosting the leaders of the various political blocs at his home in an attempt to end the ongoing political stalemate. Their last meeting was August 2nd and the major leaders -- including Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Najaifi, Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi and State of Law's Nouri al-Maliki -- attended that meeting. It is said that the recent series of meetings culminating with the August 2nd meet-up led the blocs to all agree to resume the Erbil Agreement which would mean, among other things, creating a national council which Allawi would serve on and head. However, the problem with that last time was Nouri (who ignored the Erbil Agreement after he got what he wanted) and no sooner was Talabani receiving praise in the press at the start of this month than members of State of Law were publicly complaining about the proposed national council.
While we're on the topic of Iraqi politics, let's not the ongoing scandal from Nouri's Cabinet.  Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraq Ministry of Oil said on Sunday that it found falsified correspondences in order to provoke international companies. The letters use the names of Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate and the Ministry of Finance over the fourth round of bids. The Ministry stressed that these letters aim at undermining the work of the Ministry and stressed that it will follow the parties who are involved in this issue. Iraq Minister of Oil Assem Jihad told Alsumarianews that Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate found a number of falsified papers used to exploit its name and that of the Ministry of Finance addressed to international Oil Companies that qualified to the fourth round of bids asking for money from these companies. However, these parties are still unknown he added."
And still the Iraq War continues.  AFP notes Nouri al-Maliki has declared, "The agreement on the withdrawal of American forces will be implemented on schedule by the end of the year, and there will not be any bases for US forces here." Nouri's word never carries much weight -- especially after yesterday when he tried to lie about what the United Nations was saying forcing the UN to issue a press release correcting the record.  In another AFP report, one reflecting on Iraq since 9-11 (it's a theme, 9-11 had nothing to do with Iraq but everyone's going to ram 9-11 down your throats for the next two weeks), it's noted that Bagdhad and DC agree Iraq's "unable to secure the country's airspace, borders or waters" and that they are open to keeping "trainers" (US soldiers) in Iraq beyond 2011.  David Dayen (Firedog Lake) points out, "It's important to make this clear: call them trainers, call them troops, they would still be military forces, they would presumably still have guns, and they would still be used in the event of raids or firefights or other dangerous missions. They would be troops in everything but name."

In today's violence, Reuters notes that a Baquba roadside bombing injured three police officers and that in Hilla (yesterday) two corpses were discovered ("a government employee and his wife."   Aswat al-Iraq reports a Kirkuk bombing left "a woman and her daughter" wounded and the Baquba bombing left five police officers injured.

AFP reports that journalist Asos Hardi was attacked and beaten with the butt of a pistol. The wire service notes that Human Rights Watch sees this as part of a continued and increasing wave of attacks on journalists in the Kurdistan region. Human Rights Watch issued the following news release on the attack:

(Beirut) -- The Kurdistan Regional Government should conduct a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation into the attack on the prominent journalist Asos Hardi on August 29, 2011, and prosecute whoever is responsible, Human Rights Watch said today.
Hardi is the director of the Awene Press and Publishing Company, which publishes the independent newspaper Awene in Iraqi Kurdistan, and a member of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa advisory committee. He told Human Rights Watch that a young man dressed in black attacked him as he was leaving the newspaper office at 7 p.m. The assailant, who was waiting near Hardi's car, knocked him to the ground with a blow to the back of the head with a pistol and continued beating him as he lay on the ground. Hardi was hospitalized and received 32 stitches for six wounds to his head.
"The attack on the respected journalist Asos Hardi is the latest example of the grave risks faced by independent media workers in Iraqi Kurdistan," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Kurdish authorities should act decisively to bring whoever is behind this attack to justice."
Hardi told Human Rights Watch that he believes he was targeted for his work as a journalist. "I have never had any personal problems with anyone my whole life," he said. "It is very clear that this attack is related to my job as an independent journalist and my vocal support for freedom."
Xendan news media, a local news organization, reported on its website that Prime Minister Barham Salih of the Kurdistan Regional Government had ordered authorities in Sulaimaniya to investigate the attack. Police said they are investigating the incident and took a statement from Hardi.
Since the start of protests in Sulaimaniya on February 17 over widespread corruption and violations of civil and political rights, journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan have faced escalating attacks and threats, including from members of the government's security forces. In March, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 20 journalists in Kurdistan and found that security forces and their proxies routinely repress journalists through threats, arbitrary arrests, beatings, and harassment, and by confiscating and destroying their equipment.
Hardi expressed concern that the government's promised investigation will go nowhere. "There are many cases like this in Kurdistan," Hardi told Human Rights Watch. "Police always say they investigate the attacks but no one is captured or tried."
AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:
prashantrao Just spoke to Asos Hardi, #Iraq #Kurd journo beaten outside his office last night. Was 'confident' police would not catch assailant.

Hardi told Reporters Without Borders that his assailant pointed a gun at him and then hit him repeatedly. The gunman acted alone but a car was waiting nearby.

"I had to be rushed to hospital and I have 32 stitches and six bruises on my

head, but my condition is now stable and I was able to leave the hospital

during the night," he said.

The autonomous Kurdistan region's authorities said they were investigating the attack in order to identify "the motives and those responsible."

Despite repeated pledges by Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani, the number of cases of physical violence and abusive treatment of journalists has been increasing steadily ever since a wave of protests began in mid-February. Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to do everything possible to shed light on this case in order to realize their declared desire to improve the safety of journalists.

The latest wave of the Turkish military bombing the KRG continues. Alsumaria TV notes, "Kurdistan Parliament called to close all Turkish military and intelligence bases in Kurdistan. Kurdistan Parliament rebuked Turkish violations against Kurdistan territories, a source told Alsumaria." Sebnem Arsu (New York Times) notes the Kurdish military continues to boast of its kills -- or at least some of them, others they deny (such as two Sundays ago when they killed 8 civilians while bombing a village) -- and how they rushed out the boast of 150 dead on Monday. Today's Zaman reports, "A leading executive of Iraq's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has stated that the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq has been planning to deploy peshmerga troops along the borders with Iran and Turkey -- two neighbors that have launched operations inside northern Iraq targeting Kurdish terrorist organizations that have bases there."
Meanwhile, what's going on at Baghdad airport?  Al Rafidayn, citing a customs source, reports that a US service member was stopped at Baghdad International yesterday as he was trying to leave the country and is being detained for attempting to smuggle $80,000 out of Iraq.  Iraqi Oil Report Tweeted:

iraqoilreport #Baghdad airport closed for about an hour today for unnamed "security threat." Re-opened without incident.
But Aswat al-Iraq says that the airport has remained closed and that the US military also closed "all Iraqi air space" and, "The source told Aswat al-Iraq that the Iraqi side received instructions from the American forces to close Baghdad International Airport until further notice, without giving any explanation or reasons for such closure."
Turning to the US, I agree with every word John Walsh says in this piece at CounterPunch.  We are not excerpting because the one being called out by Walsh is someone I don't want to give publicity too.  A few weeks back, I noted that after our excerpt of an exchange on Law & Disorder Radio, co-host Michael Ratner made a point on that I strongly agree with, so to listen for that.  It was a critique of the same person.  We have called him out for over five years here and at Third and, six or so months ago, I made the decision we just weren't going to mention him.  But we will highlight the critiques of him by others.  John Walsh has a great one.  I'll throw it out to a community vote.  If you'd like Walsh's column excerpted in tomorrow's snapshot, weigh in at one of the two private e-mail addresses (just "Yes" or "No" so people working the accounts aren't overloaded -- and put "Yes" or "No" in your subject heading).
Back to the topic we started with, someone else (besides Debra Sweet) who never lost his way in 2008, never lost his voice, never whored,  Chris Hedges. This is from his "The Election March of the Trolls" (Information Clearing House) and let's hope everyone reads it and grasps it:

We have begun the election march of the trolls. They have crawled out of the sewers of public relations firms, polling organizations, the commercial media, the two corporate political parties and elected office to fill the airwaves with inanities and absurdities until the final inanity -- the 2012 presidential election. Journalists, whose role has been reduced to purveyors of court gossip, whether on Fox or MSNBC, descend in swarms to report pseudo-events such as the Ames straw poll, where it costs $30 to cast a ballot. And then, almost immediately, they blithely inform us that the Iowa poll is meaningless now that Rick Perry has entered the race. The liberal trolls, as they do in every election cycle, are beating their little chests about the perfidiousness of the Democratic Party and Barack Obama. It is a gesture performed not to effect change but to burnish their credentials as moralists. They know, as do we, that they will trot obediently into the voting booth in 2012 to do as they are told. And everywhere the pulse of the nation is being assiduously monitored through polls and focus groups, not because our opinions matter, but because our troll candidates understand that by parroting back to us our own viewpoints they can continue to spend their days lapping up corporate money with other trolls in the two houses of Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court and television studios where they chat with troll celebrity journalists.

The only commodity the troll state offers is fear. The corporate trolls, such as the Koch brothers, terrify the birthers, creationists, militia lovers, tea party militants, right-to-life advocates, Christian fascists and God-fearing red-white-and-blue patriots by proclaiming that, unless they vote for Perry or Mitt Romney or Michele Bachmann or some other product of the lunatic fringe of our political establishment, the American family will be destroyed, our children will be corrupted and the country will turn socialist. Barack Obama, who they whisper is a closet Muslim, will take away their guns, raise their taxes and bring homosexual couples into kindergartens.

For those, usually liberals, still rooted in a reality-based world, one that believes in evolutionary science, the corporate trolls offer a more refined, fear-based message of impending doom. If you abandon the Democrats we will be governed by Bible-thumping idiots who will make us chant the Pledge of Allegiance in mass rallies and teach the account of Genesis as historical and biological fact in our nation's schools.

And underneath it all runs the mantra chanted in unison by all the trolls—terror, terror, terror. The troll establishment spins us like windup dolls and laughs all the way to the bank. What idiots, they think. And every election cycle we prove them right.