Monday, December 12, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Monday, December 12, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, did ABC News deliberately try to distort the way Ron Paul speaks, the Iraq War claimed another US life (though the press looked the other way), Ted Koppel offers an adult discussion on Iraq tonight on NBC's Rock Central (10:00 pm EST and Pacific, 9:00 pm Central), the US press goes soggier than usual with pomp and, well, pomp, NATO says it's out of Iraq at the end of the month, Iraqi Christians are taxed for practicing their religion, and more.
Today NATO issued (link is text and video) a statement announcing they would be doing no more training in Iraq.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: NATO has decided to withdraw the training mission from Iraq by the 31st of December this year when the current mandate of the mission expires.  Agreement on the extension of this successful program did not prove possible despite robust negotiations over several weeks.  NATO remains fully committed to our partnership and political relationship with Iraq through our existing Structured Cooperation Framework. The NATO Training Mission in Iraq, which started in 2004 at the request of the Iraqi authorities, has been a success.  Our trainers can be very proud of what they have achieved over the last seven years, contributing to Iraq's security capacity and helping to develop a more sustainable, multi-ethnic security force.  Since 2004, we have trained over 5,000 military personnel and over 10,000 police personnel in Iraq and provided over 115 million euro worth of military equipment.  We're determined to build on the success and the spirit of our Training Mission to further strengthen our partnership and political relationship with Iraq, so that together we can continue to contribute to regional peace and stability, which is beneficial for the whole international community.
AFP notes, "On November 29, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Iraq was studying a contract to extend NATO's presence in Iraq beyond the year's end, but noted that such a deal would not grant its troops immunity from prosecution."   David Brunnstorm and Alistair Lyon (Reuters) report that NATO has approximately 100 trainers in Iraq currently and quote an unnamed official stating, "Our minimum line was that if we are asking our people to live and work in another country, we need to maintain our own jurisdiction over them. It wasn't possible to agree to that." Before the announcement, Dar Addustour reported this morning the deal was off and that the sticking point was immunity. As Al Rafidayn notes, news that the deal was off leaked out Sunday though NATO issued denials. Sunday was when, Al Mada observes, Faleh al-Fayad, the National Security Adviser, declared that Iraq regretted NATO had decided to withdraw from Iraq over the issue of immunity. 
In other news, Alsumaria TV reports:
Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama Al Nujaifi considered, on Monday, that keeping 15 thousand employees at the US embassy in Iraq after US troops' withdrawal is illogical. This issue requires answers from Iraqi government, Nujaifi revealed indicating that the parliament will host Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki to discuss Security Forces' readiness at his return from Washington.
"Under diplomatic representation and bilateral relations' exchange in accordance with the Strategic Framework Agreement signed with Iraq, it is illogical to have 15 thousand employees at the US embassy after US troops' withdrawal from Iraq," Osama Al Nujaifi told a press conference attended by Alsumarianews at the parliament building.
That US State Dept battalion of employees was also raised in a debate over the weekend.   Saturday ABC hosted a debate of those vying for the Republican presidential nomination.  Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos moderated.
US House Rep Ron Paul: Well -- well I want to -- extend the tax cut, because if you don't, you raise the taxes.  But I want to pay for it.  And it's not that difficult.  In my proposal, in my budget, I want to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from overseas.  The trust fund is gone.  But how are we gonna restore it?  We have to quit the spending.  We have to quit this being the policemen of the world.  We don't need another war in Syria and another war in Iran.  Just get rid of the embassy in Baghdad.  We're pretending we're coming home from Baghdad.  We built an embassy there that cost a billion dollars and we're putting 17,000 contractors in there and pretending our troops are coming home.  I could save and we don't have to raise taxes on Social Security -- on the -- on the -- on the -- on the tax --
That's kind of from the ABC official transcript.  When I attend a hearing and we cover it here, I try to be accurate.  There are times when I can barely keep my eyes open out of boredom and if someone's uh-uh-ing, I won't include it because in my notes that I take, I'm just trying to get through the hearing.  But most of the time, we do capture it.  I think, to be accurate, you need to.  Sometimes the uh-uh (or whatever) is not merely a manner of speaking but indicative of something -- such as a witness who works for the government trying to think of way to answer without actually answering.
So when there was the mini-drama over AP's transcript of Barack last month, I did have to wonder how pathetic some people's lives were that they needed to wrongly call the Associated Press racist because Barack clearly dropping the "g"s at the end of his words was noted in the transcript.  It should have been.  If that's how he speaks -- and it was how he was speaking -- then it should be noted.  So should you starting over in the middle of a sentence.  Such as: "So should you -- So should you starting over in the middle of a sentence."  I expect transcripts to be accurate.  I had that expectation when Bush was in the White House. I have it now.
A news outlet that does a transcript needs to be accurate.  I have changed ABC News' official transcript because Ron Paul did not say, for example, "wanna."  "Gonna"? Yes, he says that once.  But he never says "wanna."  Click here for the Ron Paul highlights.  When I heard what was in the ABC transcript, I thought, "That's not how he speaks.  But I was not about to stream that entire debate.  The link goes to just Ron Paul's parts of the debate. Repeating, that did not sound like how he speaks from Congressional hearings I've attended.  And if you stream the video, you'll see he's not saying "wanna" and "gonna" and I forget the other thing I corrected.  But when Ron Paul says "want to," he usually goes up a note on the "to," something I noticed back in 2006 and why I doubted ABC's transcript to begin with. 
I'm not calling it "racism" but I am saying that transcript is inaccurate with regards to Ron Paul and I think people are right to wonder if ABC News was attempting to make Ron Paul sound a certain way, a way that might make some believe he was less educated than he is.  The press pattern with regards to Ron Paul makes the transcript distortion an issue.
Back to what he was saying.
US House Rep Ron Paul: Well -- well I want to -- extend the tax cut, because if you don't, you raise the taxes.  But I want to pay for it.  And it's not that difficult.  In my proposal, in my budget, I want to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from overseas.  The trust fund is gone.  But how are we gonna restore it?  We have to quit the spending.  We have to quit this being the policemen of the world.  We don't need another war in Syria and another war in Iran.  Just get rid of the embassy in Baghdad.  We're pretending we're coming home from Baghdad.  We built an embassy there that cost a billion dollars and we're putting 17,000 contractors in there and pretending our troops are coming home. 
Yes, a lot of people want to pretend things are different than they actually are. It was an important point -- made by someone who truly was against the Iraq War.  And one of the few functioning members of the press noted that on yesterday's Meet The Press (NBC).
Ted Koppel: The point is Ron Paul was almost right last night.  You remember, and it was one of the overlooked points in the debate, he spoke of the 17,000, he spoke about civilian contractors who are still in Iraq.  We do have 17,000 people still in Iraq.  They're not all civilian contractors, but a great many of them are.  You've got a consulate in Basra, a consulate in Erbil.  The one in Basra is just less than 20 miles from the Iranian border; 1,320 Americans down there.  They are rocketed two or three times a week. They are about as vulnerable as any Americans have been since 1979 at the embassy in Tehran.  And if they were to be frontally attacked, and I'm suggesting that that's not unlikely at all, you're going to see the U.S. military come back in.  Because, while the ambassador said, "No, no, no, we're going to rely on the Iraqis to do the job," there is no way that the U.S. military will wait for the Iraqis to save those Americans, and they're going to need saving.
Also on Meet The Press, they highlighted a small segment of an interview Ted did with US Ambassador James Jeffery as part of a report to air tonight on Rock Center (NBC):
MR. KOPPEL:  I realize you can't go into it in any detail, but I would assume that there is a healthy CIA mission here.  I would assume that JSOC may still be active in this country, the joint special operations.  You've got FBI here. You've got DEA here.  Can, can you give me sort of a, a menu of, of who all falls under your control?
AMB.  JAMES JEFFREY:  You're actually doing pretty well, were I authorized to talk about half of this stuff.
Yes, the CIA will still be there (and in a new subdivision in Turkey) and so will Special Ops.  And this has been addressed.  But there aren't a lot of grown ups in the press.  When Ted left Nightline, it wasn't just that program that suffered, it was the quality of news.
Rock Center airs tonight at 10:00 pm. EST and Pacific, 9:00 pm Central.  Rock Center's Tom Bettag notes of Ted Koppel's report tonight:
But is America really leaving? Many people have the impression that the U.S. presence -- and U.S. government spending -- is finally ending in Iraq.  Koppel makes it clear that this is far from the truth.
He tells the story of some 16,000 people who will be left behind. Koppel and his team obtained extraordinary access to the U.S. embassy, the largest embassy in the world, with a footprint the size of Vatican City.  He also traveled to the U.S. consulate in Basra, which faces regular rocket attacks from Iranian-funded militia.
For them, it isn't over; it's just about to begin.
So grown ups should tune in to Rock Center tonight on NBC.  You'll be informed with some realities.  Realities just don't make a lot of the US outlets which is fully staffed with sycophants. Maybe Steve Kroft kicked off the latest wave of press nonsense with the interview of Barack that 60 Minutes (CBS) aired last night?  Conor Friedersdorf (The Atlantic) offers a brilliant critique of the interview:
An interviewer determined to challenge a sitting president, as every interviewer of every president should do, could've asked what Obama thinks about the fact that his drone strikes in Pakistan are destabilizing a nuclear power and killing innocent children; or whether Solyndra got special treatment because of its insider connections; or what he thinks about the Fast and Furious scandal and what Eric Holder knew about it. Kroft could've challenged Obama to explain why he decided to proceed with military action in Libya even though it violated the War Powers Resolution, or asked him about the controversy surrounding federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, or echoed the concerns that progressives have with his immigration policies.
But nope. Kroft asked none of those questions; nor did he press Obama about his views on indefinitely detaining American citizens; nor did he ask about the killing without due process of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American; nor did he ask about the controversy surrounding whether the morning-after pill should be available over-the-counter for people of all ages or not; nor did he ask about the private security contractors that America will pay to stay in Iraq after we leave; nor about the state secrets privilege; nor about aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers; nor about many other issues of concern to liberals, conservatives, and libertarians, all of whom have earnest complaints.
Nouri al-Maliki is in the US.  Al Mada reports on Nouri's visit to DC and notes that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc is stating that the visit is about finding a way for the US military to work out a deal on 'trainers.' It is stated that they will dangle investment opportunities in an attempt to smooth the way. Al Rafidayn quotes Ali al-Moussawi, Nouri's media advisor, stating that all aspects of the relationship will be addressed. Dar Addustour reports the multi-day visit will address many issues including "immunity for US trainers' and, of course, Chapter VII. One of the worst reports on the meet up between Barack and Nouri is this Washington Post article that's free of anything that might actually matter.  A friend at CBS News asked for a link to Brian Montopoli's report -- I haven't read it and stated, "Don't tell me what's in it."  I don't want to slam him.  But we'll include a link and I'll hope Brian broke from the pack and offered something of value.
What's the value of worship if you worship?  In Iraq, a religious minority is being forced to pay a tax for worshipping.  Catholic Culture reports, "The Latin Rite archbishop of Baghdad says that some Christians have been reduced to dhimmitude and are being forced to pay the jizya, a special tax that permits them to practice their faith." Independent Catholic News adds, "Mgr Jean Benjamin Sleiman, Latin Archbishop of Baghdad, said that in recent years, some Christians have experienced persecution and today they continue to live in the most dangerous areas such as Baghdad and Mosul. They are considered 'dimmi' (infidels), therefore legally and socially inferior, and even forced to pay the 'jizya', the tax due from the non-Muslim minorities in order to practice their faith." Assyrian International News Agency adds, "The latest attacks of Kurds on Assyrian businesses, cultural centres and houses in Zakho (Northern Iraq) clearly indicate that bomb attacks, robberies and systematic discrimination are still present and force Assyrians to flee their homeland. They are denied their constitutional rights of establishing their own civil society organisations. They are being oppressed and deprived of their equal rights in a systematic way." There will be  protests outside the White House during Nouri's visit by supporters of Camp Ashraf. Former FBI director Louis Freeh is supposed to be among those protesting. Maybe supporters of Iraqi Christians should be out protesting as well?

At the end of last week, Joel Gehrke (Washington Examiner) noted:

Thirty-seven House legislators from both sides of the aisle signed a letter to President Obama requesting that he intercede on behalf of persecuted Iraq Christians and other religious minorities in his upcoming meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
"The Iraqi Government needs to understand," wrote Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., on behalf of his colleagues yesterday, "that the protection and preservation of these communities will be a key component of our future bilateral relations and critical to our alliance, given its own centrality to our own basic values."
The legislators -- including Democrats such as Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., D-Ill. -- reminded Obama that a 2004 commission found that rapes, beheadings, and bombings of Christians in Iraq often take place. "Too often, attacks of the sort described above are not adequately investigated, prosecuted, or punished, fostering a deadly climate of impunity," they said.

Possibly Iraqi Christians could appeal to Iraqi government officials. Like Hakim al-Zamili? Elizabeth Palmer (CBS Evening News -- link is text and video) reported last week:

Meet Hakim al-Zamili, member of Parliament for the Shi'a stronghold of Sadr City. This morning he's touring local schools and getting an earful from teachers about their lousy pay.
But just four years ago, al-Zamili was a wanted man. At the time, he was Iraq's deputy health minister. The U.S. authorities believed he was using that position to funnel money to the Mahdi Army and to order assassinations.
The Mahdi Army was the feared Shi'a militia that murdered hundreds -- probably thousands -- of Sunnis and Christians in a vicious religious war. Its fighters also attacked U.S. forces.
Today Reuters notes two Baghdad roadside bombings left six people injured and that, last night, 1 police officer was shot dead in Mosul.
Over the weekend, the government of Iran began floating claims that the US government was lying about the number of US dead and wounded from the Iraq War.  Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reported that Iran's military commander, Brig Gen Massoud Jazayeri, is questioning the official numbers provided by the US Defense Dept on the number of service members injured and killed in Iraq stating that the official numbers of less than 5,000 dead and 11,000 wounded are incorrect. On the same story, Press TV noted:

Despite US efforts to impose an information blackout on its war casualties, the number of US troops killed and wounded in Iraq has surpassed 50,000, a senior Iranian commander says.
"Based on the existing figures and data, the American forces killed and injured in Iraq are estimated to be 50,000. However, it seems that the real statistics are much higher than this," said Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri, the deputy head of Iran's Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Friday.
"Of course the figure 50,000 killed and wounded Americans, is notwithstanding the mercenaries of other nationalities who are in the US Army fighting against the people of Iraq," the Iranian commander added.

The Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Jazayeri stating, "Today with over 15 trillion dollars of debts, the US government has the greatest debt of a government in the world, and is therefore a bankrupt government, on the verge of collapse. But of course the psychological propagation media of the US administration and the super-capitalism camp's media levers prevent the possibility of revealing such realities for the US public, but sooner or later the truth would be unveiled and then the world nations would be taken aback by the sudden downfall of the US Empire." And all the above could be dismissed as the ranting of one goverment opposed to another -- well not the money, there's no arguing the trillions thrown away on the illegal war -- but the claim of lying could be disputed and dismissed as Iranian propaganda.
Or could have been if it weren't for the fact that the US military had another fatality in the Iraq War in the last seven days but DoD failed to issue an announcement of the death and the lazy press corps in the US can't be bothered with following the Pentagon's official count -- hell, they don't even acknowledge that it exists.
But it does exist and, as we noted last night,  DoD's fatality count of US military personnel in Iraq now stands at  4487 which is up one from the Sunday prior -- use the link before and after 4487, there are screen snaps of the official DoD count, you'll see it went up one.  Apparently announcing that death would have marred the soft coverage of Barack and Nouri and the so-called end of  the occupation of Iraq.
We'll close with this from Debra Sweet's "Mumia, Obama's Birth Control Obstruction; Action Vs. Torture" (World Can't Wait):

Wednesday, in direct contradiction to the recommendations of the FDA, Kathleen Seblius announced that the administration will not allow women under 17 to get Emergency Contraception (EC, Plan B) without a prescription. This makes Barack Obama the first president to counter the FDA by executive order.
His action goes against the science. There is no medical or ethical reason to impede a woman of any age, who, for whatever reason, wants to avoid an unplanned pregnancy. How does it help the future of that young woman to put her through more hoops, including a doctors' visit, potentially leaving her vulnerable to all the complications of a pregnancy for a young person?
My blog on this continues here. This president, this government, just acted against the interests of all of us who are women, or who care about women's' lives, in a craven way which will only give encouragement to those on the right who want to enact even worse measures, including bans on abortion and all birth control.