Michael Smith: Brian, the United States, although it is supporting the war there and is actually having the CIA fly predator drone assassination planes, but the Congress has never declared war against Libya. And [US Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid, the head of the Democratic Party in the Senate, said, 'Well this war's going to be over with so quickly we don't have to declare war.' But the Constitution of the United States says quite clearly that Congress must declare war. Nonetheless, they're going abou supporting the overthrow -- regime change is what Obama articulated -- without doing that. What's your reaction to that?
Brian Becker: Well Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution makes it clear that only Congress has the right to declare war. This is clearly a war when you drop thousands of bombs and missiles. And the Americans are doing most of the bombing, by the way. It's not simply "leading from behind" -- that's partly public relations by the Obama administration. The bulk of the sorties are carried out by American aircraft. Very few voices in Congress -- Dennis Kucinich was one who clearly made the point and has demanded that the Obama administration be held accountable for what is basically a violation of the Constitution. Obama even went beyond what George W. Bush did in one sense. In Iraq, Bush demanded and got from Congress something of a blank check for later military operations -- that was the vote in October of 2002. In the case of Libya, the Obama administration said, 'Well, we don't even have to introduce any legislation that would give us any kind of pretext or premise for engaging in military hostilities" because they said that the bombing of Libya doesn't "constitute a hostility in the traditional sense in which the word hostility is meant." I mean that's real, true double-speak. I think a lot of people don't realize the extent to which that this is not simply NATO supporting a rebel force but the entire operation is a NATO operation. The Guardian newspaper on August 23rd says, for instance, and I'll quote you, "British and NATO military commanders are planning what they hope will be the final onslaught on Col Gaddafi's forces to put an end to put an end to all resistance from troops loyal to the Libyan leader." And then they go on and describe -- and this has come out only in the recent days -- how French and British and, in particular, a British commando unit have actually been leading the troops into battle. Giving the advice, yes, but also leading them into battle and coordinating with the US, the British and the French airforce for pin-point, precise, military bombing campaigns against Libyan resistance forces. And so leading from behind is just more euphemistic language designed to conceal what is, one, an illegal war as you suggest -- or certainly as I would assert because it has no authorization -- certainly the [UN[ Security Council isn't a legal entity that gives the United States executive branch the authority to carry out wars of agression. But it's not simply supporting people in the field who have a beef or a grievance or are in armed struggle against Gaddafi. If it was them and them alone, they would never have survived -- succeeded, to the extendt that they are succeeding. This is the military efforts by the Pentagon and their colleague in Britain and France to overthrow an independent government and they're using disaffected Libyans as foot-soldiers in this battle.
Michael Smith: I would add that the United States when it was formed, when the Declaration of Indepence was issued in 1776, it was issued on the basis that the people in this country had a right to determine for themselves what type of a government they had. Whether you agree or disagree with the Gaddafi government, that would be, I would say, the business of the Libyan people, not the American government. And the principal of self determination which was a great principal that was established in the American Revolution two hundred years ao is the princpal that's been violated now, wouldn't you agree?
Brian Becker: I would and I think that we need -- political people need to recognize that the last century has been the era of imperialism. The slogan of self-determination has no credibility except in that struggle against imperialism.
A.N.S.W.E.R. will be taking part in two October actions:
On the subject of protests, Randy Furst (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) reports at least 200 people turned out yesterday to protest (weakly) against War Criminal (strong War Criminal) Barack Obama as the US president breezed through town to speak to the VFW. They "shouted slogans and denounced his polices on Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya." But like battered spouses, when Furst spoke to them, they weren't sure they could deny Barack their vote. Really? Men and women and children are dying in these wars. Wars you supposedly oppose. And you can't put it on the line to say, "End the war or don't get my vote?" How very pathetic. If true. But is it true? Tim Nelson (Minnesota Public Radio) puts the turnout at "more than a hundred" and portrays the same situation that Furst does. Protesters too in love with Barry to protest much.
They sell us the president
The same way they sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us every thing from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
-- "Lives in the Balance," written by Jackson Browne, first appears on Jackson's Lives In The Balance album.
Jess Sundin, one of the raided activists, said, "In his address to the American Legion, the president sought support for his policies of war. Outside the hall, protesters, including organizations of veterans and military families whose voices exposed the human costs of these wars, not only on the people of Afghanistan or Iraq, but also on the troops sent to fight these wars."
She added, "We are coming out to protest because Obama's policies of endless war and Wall Street bail outs have failed to meet the needs of the majority of people at home, while costing countless lives abroad. We stand up together to support our community members who have been targeted with repression for speaking out against these policies. We demand an end to attacks on activists, an end to U.S. wars, occupations and bombings around the world and we demand funding of human needs here in our own country."
How could the other two get it so wrong? Oh, yeah, they're not fans of protest. They don't like protest and both outlets did their part to create the Cult of St. Barack so presenting 'reluctant' protesters as the norm certainly allows them to play it as "so good even his opponents have a hard time protesting his wars." I don't think it's reporting, I think it's indoctrination, an attempt at controlling the masses. (To be clear, the people in those other two outlets coverage do exist. To afraid to deny Barack their vote. But Fight Back! offers a real look at the protests which means either someone didn't want to really do the work required or they deliberately distorted it in the media's continued efforts to restore and refinish Brand Obama.
After being left for dead by militia men in Iraq for photographing a story about the treatment of gay men, Nasser fled to Damascus, Syria, barely alive. 18 months later he is robbed in Damascus, everything he had stolen by a boyfriend. He was feeling betrayed and impatient, and tired of waiting to hear of news of resettlement to another country through the United Nations. Nasser wanted to go to Bulgaria, smuggling himself into the European Union illegally. Instead he went back to Iraq to get new documents, risking his life doing so.
Arriving back in Iraq Nasser was kidnapped and has dissapeared. His whereabouts, his survival; unknown. I just had a phone call from someone in Iraq telling me that Nasser had been taken away, and that his friends are worried he might have been killed for real this time. In the search to make a new start, Nasser; a very brave, quiet and confident man may have lost his life and become another number added to the countless others killed because of their sexuality in Iraq. Sexual genocide continues. He may be alive, held somewhere. If he's alive, his courage will allow him to break out, escape, and start the new life he has been wishing for.
Sexual genocide does take place in Iraq. And, fortunately, this year the UN decided that equality means equality and, in June, as Jill Dougherty (CNN) reported, their "Human Rights Council passed a resolution [. . .] supporting equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation." That was one of two steps that allowed the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to cover the status of LGBT Iraqis in [PDF format warning] "2010 Report on Human Rights in Iraq" released earlier this month. From that report:
Article 17 of the ICCPR mandates the right of privacy. This provision, specifically Article 17(1), protects private adult consensual sexual activity, including homosexual behaviour. In 1994 the Human Rights Committee considered the case of Toonan v Australia. The committee concluded that the criminalisation of sexual acts between consenting adults was a breach of a right to privacy and that the right to be free from discrimination on grounds of sex included sexual orientation. Since then, the committee has developed and consolidated its own jurisprudence. During the Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council in Geneva in February 2010, Iraq expressly and officially rejected calls by UN member States to act to protect persons on account of their sexual preferences, and to investigate homophobic hate crimes and to bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice. UNAMI continued to receive reports during 2010 of attacks against individuals based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation. The topic of homosexuality is largely taboo in Iraq and seen as incompatible with the country's culture and religion. Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community usually keep their sexual orientation secret and live in constant fear of discrimination, rejection by family members, social ostracism, and violence. The Iraqi Penal Code does not expressly prohibit homosexual relations between consenting adults. However, a variety of less specific, flexible provisions in the Iraqi Penal Code leave room for active discrimination and prosecution of LGBT persons and feeds societal intolerance. Police and courts regularly take into account the alleged homosexuality of the victim as a mitigating factor in relation to crimes committed against persons on account of their perceived or real sexual orientation. Reports published by Ali Hilli, the pseudonym of the sole publicly known representative of the Londonbased Iraqi LGBT, state that on 16 June, 12 police officers burst into a "safe house" in Karbala' and violently beat up and blindfolded the six occupants before taking them away in three vans. The same report states that the police confiscated computer equipment found in the house before burning it down. The six people arrested reportedly included three men, one woman and two transgender people. Two days later, one of the men turned up in hospital with a throat wound claiming he had been tortured. UNAMI has not been able to ascertain the whereabouts of the other five individuals. UNAMI continued to follow the cases of ten men who were persecuted in Baghdad because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation. As previously reported, the men had suffered extreme forms of violence and abuse at the hands of members of the Mahdi Army, police officers, religious leaders and local criminal gangs, which had forced them to flee to a neighbouring country in May 2009 from where they hoped to seek protection in third countries. While one of these cases was subsequently resettled through UNHCR, some of these men subsequently returned to Iraq because they claimed they lacked funds and adequate means of support. One of them contacted UNAMI stating that he was homeless and alleging that he was being subjected to further acts of violence. He reported that he could not return to his family who had threatened to kill him because of his sexual orientation.
While this became a big issue, the New York Times couldn't lead or do much for coverage. The Denver Post could and did lead on the subject. The New York Times? It was as though it was the 80s all over again, when AIDS moved from new disease, to vastly growing outbreak to a crisis. And all the while the New York Times wanted to look the other way, especially on the op-ed (opinion and editorials) pages. It was just too 'icky' for the straight-laced and sexually repressed Times apparently. And in the years between, they have begun to publish smiling photos of same-sex consumers who wish to announce marriage but that's about the marriage industry, it's not about equality or any real concern for all. That was made clear when the 'brave' staff of the paper just couldn't bring themselves to provide some serious coverage of the assault on Iraq's LGBT community.
Tim Arango is back in the US for a rest (like so many foreign reporters covering Iraq, he's been out for the month of August) which means Michael S. Schmidt gets to face my wrath today instead. And he can take comfort in the fact that (a) he's just written the perfect piece for the Times and (b) my hatred of it won't do a thing to change the way its embraced by the Grey Lady. "Iraq War Marks First Month With No U.S. Military Deaths" gushes the headline -- and sadly, the headline writer properly summarized Schmidt's article. Really? That's a milestone?
Hmm. Not seeing it. In fact, there's sort of a stink wafting from the article, a We're-so-much-damn-better-than-everyone-else-in-the-world. In other words, a "milestone" in Iraq would be a month when no Iraqis were killed. That would be a "milestone." This? Not so much.
Leave aside the wounded this month -- the New York Times certainly did, never reporting on any of them -- and the attacks on US forces -- ibid -- and the fact that the administration wanted US troops confined on bases for all but "essential missions" this month (after the heavy death toll in July). Set all of that aside. And grasp that since the Iraq War "ended" (Barack's August 31st declaration of the end of combat operations), the Pentagon says [PDF format warning] 56 US military personnel have died. In one year. In one year since the illegal war supposedly ended. The 56 who died in the last 12 months are still dead. If they'd all died in June or all died in January or at a rate of a little over 4 each of the 12 months, they'd still be dead.
And grasp -- even though the New York Times can't -- that is the real story. Grasp that it takes a lot of Dumb Ass on the one year anniversary of Barack's speech declaring an end to combat operations in Iraq to fail to write the story that needed to be written, the story that noted the US death toll in the year since Barack's announcement.
By all means, instead write a crappy, ill-focused article that attempts to ride a wave of Operation Happy Talk. Pretend that the US "milestone" is really the story of Iraq. Pretend the entire country's empty except for US forces. If you can do all that, you can stomach Schmidt's article. If you can't, if context or perspective are 'hang ups' you have trouble letting go of, be prepared to read the article slowly, in slack-jawed wonder.
(Schmidt can also take comfort in the fact that context has never been the paper's strong suit in their Iraq reporting. The Los Angeles Times -- Alexandra Zavis, Tina Susman, Ned Parker and others -- has always mastered context better than any other outlet when it came to Iraq War coverage.)
Are US troops staying in Iraq? Oh the fun never ends when watching US outlets cover that one. It's especially cute to listen or read denials from Americans who don't read Arabic. They mock US Secretary of State Leon Panetta, for example, and don't have the first clue that Arabic media reported and quoted accurately what English media bungled. Add UPI to the clueless list. Today they trumpet that the US State Dept insists that Iraq hasn't made a request to extend the SOFA. No, they haven't. Nor are they planning to. Arabic media has made a huge deal out of Jalal Talabani's house parties -- the big meet-ups he's hosted. It's not been so newsy to US outlets. But in the last meeting at the start of this month, that's when the "trainers" was agreed to.
"Trainers" don't require a SOFA. Among the hold ups currently is determining -- the US and Iraq -- whether "trainers" require a vote by Parliament or not.
Also on this topic, UPI headlines another report "Maliki reportedly says he wants U.S. out" and it's good for the press to be skeptical -- journalists are supposed to practice a healthy skepticism. However, for UPI, the issue is that Press TV reported it and that's why they're skeptical.
What makes Nouri al-Maliki, a known liar, a trusted source?
Even while Radio Netherlands is noting: "The outgoing UN Special Representative for Iraq, Dutchman Ad Melkert, has taken the unusual step of openly contradicting the Iraqi government. Mr Melkert has publicly aired his disagreement with statements made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki about the position of Iranian refugees in Iraq's Ashraf refugee camp."
For more on the UN's public rebuke when Nouri insisted upon lying publicly, see Monday's snapshot. And remember Lara Jakes (AP) reported Melkert "bluntly disputed" the version of events Nouri was insisting took place in their final meeting (the UN Secretary-General has a new special envoy to Iraq) . Jakes notes, "The public disavowal was rare for the U.N. office in Baghdad, which goes to great lengths to avoid engaging in political disputed."
Nouri gets treated as a trusted source -- on this topic, even more amazing. This is the same Nouri who was publicly rebuked by the Iraqi Parliament at the end of 2006 for extending the mandate for US troops to remain on Iraqi soil without consulting or informing the Parliament? The same Nouri who was again publicly rebuked by the Iraqi Parliament at the end of 2007 when he yet again extended the mandate for US troops to remain on Iraqi soil without the consent of Parliament?
Debate rages in Baghdad and Washington around conditions for a U.S. troop extension beyond the end of this year. While such an extension may be necessary, that alone will not address the fundamental problems festering in Iraq. Those issues present a growing risk to Middle East stability and the world community. The original U.S. troop "surge" was meant to create the atmosphere for national political reconciliation and the rebuilding of Iraq's institutions and infrastructure. But those have yet to happen.
Turning to today's violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad car bombing claimed 3 lives and left twenty injured, 1 corpse discovered in Daquq, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured three people, another Baghdad roadside bombing left eight people injured, a third Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured and a Daquq bombing in a cemetery which injured "a woman and her daughter."
Turning to the violence of human trafficing, the Pakistan Observer reports, "The deployment of Filipino workers to Iraq and Afghanistan will stay but will exclude those employed in the US military bases in those countries, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said. The Aquino administration reached the decision after Washington's Central Command ordered all contractors last year not to hire third-country nationals whose domestic laws prohibited their citizens from traveling and working in Iraq and Afghanistan, Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said. That ruling would allow some 7,000 Filipino workers in Iraq and Afghanistan to keep their jobs, he said." What's going on? Along with record unemployment among Iraqis in Iraq, several things. From last Wednesday's snapshot:
Today NTD Television reports (link has text and video) that the Iraqi government has decided to begin "deporting foreign workers. With the official unemployment rate at 15 percent and another 28 percent in part-time jobs, their aim is to create more job opportunities for Iraqis as their country rebuilds after years of war." The Ministry of Labor and Social Affair's legal counsultant Hossni Ahmed is quoted stating, "Unemployment rate is very high. Priority should be given to the national laborer. Therefore, we agreed to act on laws and the most important one is the residential law No. 118 of 1968." Though the government made the decision, some Iraqis object. Salam Ahmed is a restaurateur and he states, "I do not support the deportation decision because they work from early morning until 10:00 p.m. They do not complain and they do not say we are hungry and they have no more demands. The salary of a foreign worker is less than the salary of an Iraqi worker." The report notes, "Officials say the government is only issuing work permits to workers at foreign firms that hire at least 50 percent Iraqis for their work force."
Last Tuesday, the International Organization for Migration held a press briefing to announce (link is in Spanish*, FYI) that they were not only providing humanitarian assistance to 35 Ukranian and Bulgarian workers in Iraq but were calling for private companies to follow the rules with regards to national immigration, labor laws and human rights. Why? Because they did several inspections of construction sites and found migrants living there, overcrowded, no light and no ventilation. The 35 workers are part of 271 foreign workers brought into the country at the end of 2010 to work on construction within the Green Zone and hired with the promise of excellent pay but, after working hours and hours for many months, they've only been paid a few hundred dollars a piece. They can't appeal to the subcontractor who hired them. He's skipped out. (After getting his fee from the person subcontracting to him.) He never provided the employees with the work permits he promised and so these people are now undocumented workers, more or less trapped within Iraq, attempting to secure alternate employment. Some are agreeing to take $1,000 and leave the country. (The 35 are continuing to work and do construction.) Remember, this is after months of work with no pay, months of back breaking hours doing construction work. And the $1,000 wouldn't all go to them. Not only would they need to pay for their trip home, they are also being informed that they have to pay various fines due to the fact that they do not have the proper visas (the ones the employer who skipped out was supposed to provide). Meaning that even after the $1,000 is paid, they could immediately be broke due to fines the Iraqi government is attempting to levy against them. IOM's Livia Styp-Rekowska stated that the workers should immediately receive wages for the work they have done, that employers should not threaten to leave the country without paying the workers and that the workers should be assisted with returning home in a safe and dignified manner. That's the press conference. I'm adding that since this is an ongoing problem, one way to deal with it would be for subcontractors bringing foreign workers into the country to have to put up a bond which they would lose if they (a) skipped the country or (b) refused to pay the workers they brought into the country.
People are making a lot of money off of foreign workers but foreign workers rarely see the money, a point driven home by yesterday's Times of India: "JALANDHAR: The local police have booked a travel agent for duping two youths by sending them to Iraq and then leaving them in a lurch. Duped youths Prem Pal and Ripan Kumar of Khojpur village, who returned from Iraq on Saturday, have accused one Tarsem Badhan of cheating them." Today theTimes of India reports:
CHANDIGARH: The Union government on Tuesday informed Punjab and Haryana high court that 26 workers, who were sent to Iraq by unscrupulous agents and forced to clear the remnants from the Gulf war there, were brought to Baghdad and the Indian embassy has taken charge of them by arranging for their food and accommodation. The information was provided by joint secretary (consular) P M Meena before the bench of Justice M M Kumar and Justice Gurdev Singh in response to a petition filed on the issue. The Punjab police also informed that eight criminal cases have been registered so far against travel agents "in relation to nine youths."
Sanjeev Verma (Hindustan Times) reports India's Embassy in Baghdad is working on "return tickets and exit visas" for the 33 youth who would otherwise be stranded and that they're also providing lodging and food for 26 of those 33.
Turning to the US where a DC federal court has put a trial on hold. Jessica Gressko (AP) reports that Judge John Facciola has put the case on hold because he feels Dan "Choi has shown, at least preliminary, that he is being treated differently because of the subject of his protests" and "the nature of his speech or what he said." John Riley (Metro Weekly) adds that "the government prosecutor told the court she intended to file a writ of mandamus (or writ of prohibition) against Mag. Judge John Facciola for allowing Choi's defense team to investigate and pursue a defense of vindictive prosecution by the U.S. government against Choi for actions related to his First Amendment rights."
The trial is now on hold. What's going on? Lt Dan Choi is an Iraq War veteran and was a member of the US military until he decided to refuse to live in any closet and came out to the world in order to embrace truth, life and equality back in March 2009.
That was months after Barack I-Will-End-Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell-If-Elected was sworn in. So it shouldn't have been an issue. But after that, he was discharged even though the administration was 'moving' on the issue (largely filing briefs opposing court decisions ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell). Since 2009, he's been one of the most visible protesters against a corrupt and unconstitutional (check the court verdicts) policy. Now he's on trial for civil disobedience and exercising free speech. Towelroad explains, "Lt. Dan Choi's trial began in federal court yesterday for protesting 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' with 12 other activists on November 14, 2010. Choi and the others chained themselves to the White House fence while chanting 'I am somebody,' 'We do this for you' and "President Obama, Silent Homophobia.' Choi faces 6 months in prison or a $5,000 fine for an obscure infraction of Parks and Wildlife federal regulations." Others accepted plea bagains, but Choi has refused to do so. Lou Chibbaro Jr. (Washington Blade) reports:
Choi told reporters at a news conference outside the federal courthouse Monday, after the trial recessed for the day, that he rejected the government's plea bargain offer because he believes the law and regulation used to arrest him is unconstitutional. "I believe there is no law that, in the history of this country, abridges freedom of speech, assembly, or the right to protest for redress of grievances, which were clear and made plain by all of the defendants," he said.
Unless, out of 'unity,' we've again passed an attack on the Constitution like another PATRIOT Act, Dan is correct. John Riley (Metro Weekly) reported on the trial last night:
After calling six witnesses on Monday, the prosecution completed making their arguments early this morning. Feldman then called Capt. James Pietrangelo, who was arrested with Choi during the March incident, to testify, followed by Choi. Both men testified for more than two hours apiece -- with Choi's testimony running longer than three hours. On the stand, Choi said the First Amendment provides for the right of people to petition the government for a redress of grievances, which also, he said, is a moral responsibility of patriotic Americans. Choi responded under questioning by Feldman that he believed his actions were a form of speech, and that the government did not have a right to censor them by arresting him. At times, Choi raised his voice and spoke in such a tone that he almost seemed close to shouting, especially when asked about his arrest. Under cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela George, he compared the various protests against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to the 1960 sit-in by students in Greensboro, N.C., at a Woolworth's department store and said he was "insulted" by his prosecution on federal charges.
Should the verdict be guilty, Dan could be sentenced to six months behind bars. He has four attorneys and last week Steve Rothaus (Miami Herald) spoke with one of them, Norm Kent, about the case and straegy. Sunday, he Tweeted:
He said was flabbergasted he was on trial in the first place when people went to the White House to cheer the U.S. military raid that led to the death of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. He said those people gathered at the same fence but never faced any sanctions. "What's the difference?" Choi demanded of George at one point. "You have not given me a reason why my free speech should be curtailed and their free speech should be amplified."
Cole claims to be a man of the left and he appears with painful frequency on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now as the reigning "expert" on the war on Libya. This is deeply troubling – on at least two counts. First, can one be a member of the "left" and also an advocate for the brutal intervention by the Great Western Powers in the affairs of a small, relatively poor country? Apparently so, at least in Democracy Now's version of the "left." Second, it appears that Cole's essential function these days is to convince wavering progressives that the war on Libya has been fine and dandy. But how can such damaged goods as Cole credibly perform this marketing mission so vital to Obama's war?
Miraculously, Cole got just the rehabilitation he needed to continue with this vital propaganda function when it was disclosed by the New York Times on June 15 that he was the object of a White House inquiry way back in 2005 in Bush time. The source and reason for this leak and the publication of it by the NYT at this time, so many years later, should be of great interest, but they are unknown. Within a week of the Times piece Cole was accorded a hero's welcome on Democracy Now, as he appeared with retired CIA agent Glenn Carle who had served 23 years in the clandestine services of the CIA in part as an "interrogator." Carl had just retired from the CIA at the time of the White House request and was at the time employed at the National Intelligence Council, which authors the National Intelligence Estimate.
It hit this listener like a ton of bricks when it was disclosed in Goodman's interview that Cole was a long time "consultant" for the CIA, the National Intelligence Council and other agencies.