Wednesday, January 25, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the political crisis continues, Nouri launches another verbal attack on Turkey's prime minister, Talabani tries to keep the peace from a sickbed, US President Barack Obama gives a speech dubbed State of the Union, and more.
Sir Talks A Lot gave his State of the Union speech last night. A more accurate summary of the state of the union was delivered last Thursday in Harlem by Ralph Poynter.
Ralph Poynter: I want you to know that we all should have known better when Mr. Obama said that he was for change and peace. I want you to know that we should have known better when he started to run and he went to the Black Caucus to ask for their support. When they asked him why hadn't he supported the issues of the Black Caucus, his words were he did not want to be tainted by the Civil Rights Movement. We all know that Fannie Lou Hamer only wanted to vote. This is what Mr. Obama did not want to be tainted by; therefore, when we choose not to support Mr. Obama we want him to remember all of his words where he did not want to be tainted by the Civil Rights Movement, he said stop whimpering, stop whining, stop yammering. So we want to say to Mr. Obama when we don't show up to vote, stop whining! Stop whining, Mr. Obama! We no longer believe that you will stand for anything. You never stood for the First Amendment right of free speech. You never stood for the Fifth Amendment right to have an attorney. You never stood for anything that didn't support the corporations. We are standing for all of the people not the corporations. Mr. Obama, we are going to send you back home to Chicago where you helped destroy the projects. We need someone who stands for housing. We need someone who stands for jobs. We need someone who will be true to the words they say. Goodbye Mr. Obama.
Ralph, husband of political prisoner and legendary attorney Lynne Stewart, delivered the speech as a call and response with the over 400 gathered outside the Apollo Theater which was shut down for Barack's private fundraiser. On this week's. Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey, (airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network), they play the speech and report on the protest. We'll excerpt a section of co-host Nellie Bailey being interviewed by Don DeBar.
Nellie Bailey: This rally was called by Occupy Harlem along with a number of other sponsors and endorsers. And we're here to send a clear message to President Obama that he will not come to Harlem and not receive a scathing message of his service to the 1%.
Nellie Bailey: And now we have three wars going on. Not only that, we have a military budget greater than all of the military budgets of the nation-states in the world combined. That is where we are. And we have seen the expansion of war under Obama than under President Bush. We have the National Defense Authorization Act under Obama, not under Republican Bush. We have NDAA that can be used by any sitting president including right-wing Republicans.
Don DeBar: And what is the NDAA, for people who aren't familiar with it?
Nellie Bailey: It is the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 that authorizes the indefinite detention, arrest without judicial review, charges of any American citizen on American soil at the behest of the president. Only the president of the United States can authorize this and we say that this is dangerous despite the fact that President Obama says that he would not authorize the use of NDAA but he has proven in so many instances that he does not tell the truth and we know that he can and will authorize the use of this bill. And we believe that this bill and the passage, particularly at the beginning of an election year, is to outflank the Republicans in terms of his right-of-center agenda and, secondly, to have a law that will crush any militant dissent and protest here in this country as the US plutocracy and oligarchy expand their illegal wars, occupation and military aggression against nation-states.
Glen Ford: Veteran journalist Chris Hedges fears that anyone can be thrown into prison without trial under the preventive detention bill signed into law by President Obama so Hedges has sued the president. We asked Hedges how he decided to take on the White House.
Chris Hedges: It actually wasn't my idea. Carl Mayer who has been involved in lawsuits to defend the assaults against civil liberties including the ACLU lawsuit against the FISA reform act -- of which I am one of the plantiffs -- came to me and said, "Look, under this legislation, someone like you could be, potentially because of the nebulous language, charged. You've had direct, personal contact with groups that the state has defined as terrorist organizations. There are no provisions in this legislation to exempt journalists. Would you be willing to be a plantiff?" And I said yes.
Glen Ford: Particularly ominous in this legislation is the use of the term "substantial support," not material support.
Chris Hedges: Right.
Glen Ford: And most people think they understand what material support is --
Chris Hedges: Right.
Glen Ford: -- giving money, passing a gun, something, but substantial support?
Chris Hedges: Right and it could be substantial support for something called associated forces so it leaves open such a broad interpretation that there is no protection for someone like me under this law or I think for ultimately any kind of dissident because there has been a clear effort on the part of the security state to try and tar the Occupy Movement as a movement that's an enemy of American democracy. When you look at the list or the criteria by which the Attorney General's office can investigate people for terrorism, tossing in a couple of obstructionist tactics by the Occupy Movement isn't much of a stretch. I mean, people who are missing fingers on one hand, people who store over seven days of food and provisions, people who have weather proof ammunition. I mean, they're going to have to round up my entire family in rural parts of Maine.
Glen Ford: That's their profile of the potential terrorist.
Chris Hedges: Yeah, as 'worthy of investigation.' We know that there are at this point probably tens of millions of Americans who, because of the FISA reform act, whose e-mails, home messages, all of which are being monitored by the government
Glen Ford: In terms of substantial support, that could be interpreted as speech, giving aid and comfort to someone that they declare is the enemy.
Chris Hedges: Yeah, the way the law is written is, when you read it really closely, really terrifying because it's the whim of the security and surveillance state whoever they want to go after they can pretty much do so under this piece of legislation and then, of course, the way they do it is to use the military to carry out extraordinary rendition on American streets.
In the news around the world and even in the United States on Tuesday was the anger among Iraqis at the failure of the United States to hold anyone seriously accountable for the 2005 massacre in Haditha. The story was a useful reminder of how the operations of the U.S. military over the past decade have fueled hostility toward our nation. President Obama began his State of the Union speech Tuesday night by absurdly claiming the exact opposite, asserting that the war on Iraq has made us safer and -- I kid you not -- "more respected around the world." He later equated the war on Iraq to World War II, a surefire way to put anything beyond criticism in the United States, provided you can get people to fall for it. Remember, this is the guy who won the Democratic Primary in 2008 by the simple fact of having not yet been in the Senate in 2003 and thus having avoided voting for the war that he funded to the hilt as a senator beginning in 2005. He had called it a dumb war. Now he says it made us safer. If it was dumb, was he dumber? What is he trying to say? In the next breath, Obama says "some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home." Never mind that there are three times as many U.S. troops in Afghanistan now as when Obama moved into the White House. The myth is that he's ending wars. Never mind that he was compelled to end the Iraq War, in so far as it has ended, by the treaty that Bush and Maliki created, and which Obama sought every possible way to violate. Never mind that Iraqi hostility toward U.S. criminals being granted immunity from prosecution was the primary reason that the Iraqi government insisted on the Bush-Maliki withdrawal date. A myth is a myth, and who will question it and still keep their job on U.S. television?
As noted yesterday, reality spoiled Barack's plans for self-stroking over Iraq in the State of the Union. As a result, last night Barack Iraq was only five sentences in the over one hour speech:
Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought -- and several thousand gave their lives. We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world. For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. [. . .] Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies.
As noted this morning, what stood out in the speech was how inauthentic Barack was and how shocking that was since this was his fourth State of the Union speech:
It's partly because there's no speech writer in charge able to say, "Nice phrase, but it doesn't fit with the rest of the speech. It's clunky in its 'beauty' and causes people to notice it as opposed to noticing the point being made." So you get a variety of 'voices' in one speech. And Barack's not able to maintain consistency for more than seven minutes tops so that hour-plus performance last night was brutal, like watching Elizabeth Berkley struggle to breathe life into Nomi in Showgirls.
"Proud salute to the colors under which . . ." That's exactly the sort of phrase that stands out because one of the writers thought it was "beautiful" and they -- the writers -- horsetraded for their favorite moments. It's part of the reason Barack sounded like an idiot. One moment, 'Oh, I'm so serious and the economy and Congress must do this and without drama blah blah blah' and now I'm going to tell my milk joke ha ha. Now let me switch tone again and maybe they'll love me the way they loved Sally Field when she played Sybill!" It was awful and, for Brenda who wanted it included again, that includes his unnatural speech pattern which, as Ava and I observed several years ago, is ripe for parody:
We watched Monday in full as Barack uh-uh-uhed and spoke in that robotic manner that allows him to find more unnatural pauses than Estelle Parsons and Kim Stanley combined. "He's our Method president!" we quickly gasped while wishing we could have one president this decade capable of normal speech. If he gets any worse, he'll be Sandy Dennis.
Let's review the five sentences on Iraq.
1) Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq.
He knew to say "some" because military families have gotten very vocal about the fact that not everyone came home from the Gulf -- meaning not just the fallen but also the fact that US troops remain in Iraq -- Marines to guard the diplomatic sites, soldiers to be 'trainers' for weapons [which Al Arabiya points out Nouri al-Maliki noted today, "American soldiers in Iraq work as military trainers"] and Special-Ops -- and that thousands of troops have been repostured outside of Iraq in the surrounding region. Rowan Scarborough (Washington Times) reported Tuesday on all the troops being kept in the Gulf region:
About 50,000 U.S. military personnel are serving in and around the Gulf. Most are aboard ship or in Kuwait. News reports from the region say 15,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Kuwait as a check against a destabilizing situation in Iraq and the threat of aggression by Iran. The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln strike group sailed into the Gulf on Monday. Carrier contingents typically include a guided missile cruiser, two destroyers and an attack submarine. In all, more than 30 U.S. ships and about 22,000 sailors are in the Gulf area.
"Some" may have been the most intelligent moment of the speech.
2) Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought -- and several thousand gave their lives.
This was the State of the Union. Why is it members of Congress are able to note the number but Barack can't. We pointed that out last month when he gave his Andrews Air Force Base speech. As commander in chief, he shouldn't be saying "thousands," he should know the number (his speech writers should) and he should state it. The Defense Dept's official count is at 4487 American military personnel died in the illegal war.
3) We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world.
He really lies.
You lie too much
You lie too badly
You want everything for nothing
-- "The Windfall (Everything For Nothing)," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Night Ride Home
The illegal war did not make America 'respected around the world.' There's a reason, and even Barack knows this, that in 2004, Americans in college, traveling abroad, were encouraged to keep a low profile, maybe even pretend to be Canadian. Yes, it sounds like a Simons' episode but it did happen, Steve Giegerich (Associated Press) reported on it. That was 2003. Four years later, Anne Applebaum (Slate) would offer this:
It isn't just that the Iraq war invigorated the anti-Americanism that has always been latent pretty much everywhere. Far worse is the fact that -- however it all comes out in the end, however successful Iraqi democracy becomes a decade from now -- our conduct of the war in Iraq has disillusioned our natural friends and supporters and thrown a lasting shadow over our military and political competence. However it all comes out, the price we've paid is too high.
As is usual in Washington these days, there was no mention -- probably no consideration -- of Japan. But a strong case can be made that the Iraq war hurt America's reputation in Japan as much, if not more, than in any other allied country.
The consequences are evident today in the increasingly bitter dispute over a replacement for the US Marine Air Station Futenma, on Okinawa, which is scheduled to be closed. They are reflected in the broader calls in Japan these days for a "more equal" alliance relationship with the United States.
The Okinawa dispute predates the Iraq War, and the calls for more equality in the alliance were inevitable. But deep concerns and disappointment about American 'unilateralism' and haughty, heavy-handed diplomacy, prompted by the Iraq War, have made those sentiments more salient and intense.
No, it did not help the image of America.
4) For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq.
Well we really don't know what Special Ops is doing in Iraq or the CIA or the FBI. We do know all three are involved in 'terrorist' 'hunting' and that Special Ops continues to have the ability to operate throughout Iraq. We don't talk about it too much but we know it and it's even made it on air on network television. And, of course, many Iraqis have questions about the numerous Americans that have been arrested in the last two months in Iraq.
5) Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies.
And that may be the most disturbing statement in the speech.
Decisive blows against our enemies? Whatever happened to the peace that was supposed to follow a war? Barack claims the war has ended and then starts making vengeful statements that harken to a deliberate search for 'foreign adventures.' The laugh is, yet again, on the Nobel Peace Prize Committee who gave a peace award to Barack because they liked how he posed for magazines covers.
Barack tried to talk tough. al Qaeda in Mesopotamia -- created by the Iraq War, didn't exist until then -- knows a bit more about tough up close than a little prince who went to prep school in Hawaii -- and in what some will dub "the terrorist response," they issued a statement today. AP reports that they declare, "America has been defeated in Iraq. They pulled out because its economics and human losses were unbearable. America's bankruptcy and collapes is imminent. This is the real reason behind the withdrawal."
Today in Iraq, many look to the US today as a result of yesterday's sentencing. Stan Wilson and Michael Martinez (CNN) reports Staff Sgt Frank G. Wuterich, who entered a guilty plea, will not serve any time for his part in the Haditha killings which claimed 24 lives November 19, 2005. Raheem Salman and Patrick J. McDonnell (Los Angeles Times) quote a teacher in Haditha, Rafid Abdul Majeed, stating, "The Americans killed children who were hiding inside cupboards or under beds. Was this Marine charged with dereliction of duty because he didn't kill more? Is Iraqi blood so cheap?" Fadhel al-Badrani (Reuters) quotes Ali Badr stating, "This sentence gives us the proof, the solid proof that the Americans don't respect human rights." AFP reports, "The Baghdad government vowed on Wednesday to take legal action after an American marine was spared jail by a US military court over the massacre of 24 unarmed civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha in 2005." James Joyner offers his opinion of the verdict at The Atlantic while Gulf News' editorial board concludes, "Prosecutors have just committed a final indignity against the victims of Haditha." Salman and McDonnell observe, "Overall reaction in Iraq to Wuterich's plea appeared somewhat muted Tuesday, reflecting, Iraqis say, an already deeply rooted skepticism about the U.S. justice system. Iraqis are also distracted by a political crisis that some fear could result in renewed sectarian warfare: At least 10 people were killed Tuesday in bombings in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, a Shiite Muslim stronghold."
Ivan Eland (Antiwar.com) observes of the political crisis, "In Iraq, even before U.S. forces had withdrawn, Shi'ite President Nouri al-Maliki was taking the country back toward dictatorship. Now that American forces are gone, with attempts to arrest the Sunni vice president and the detention of other prominent Sunnis, Maliki is accelerating the process. Meanwhile, the radical Sunni group al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia is stepping up attacks on Shi'ites, hoping to re-ignite the sectarian civil war of 2006 and 2007. With Iraq's long history of rival ethno-sectarian groups in conflict, Sunni dictators, and no culture of political compromise needed for democracy, the prospects for an imposed democracy taking root were never great."
In an attempt to end the political crisis Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national conference. Over the weekend, Talabani went to Germany for spinal surgey and, as a result, missed the planning meet-up for the national conference (it's supposed to be rescheduled shortly).
Al Mada reports Talabani spoke on the phone from his sickbed in Germany yesterday with an envoy for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani with the envoy passing on al-Sistani's hopes that Talabani has a swift recovery and outlining al-Sistani's concerns regarding the ongoing political crisis and the importance of resolving the differences. This morning Al Rafidayn reported that the rumors are Iraqiya will resume attending sessions of Parliament and Cabinet meetings and that this will help lead to a resolution over Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. Rumors of the return have sprouted repeatedly and I'm not seeing anything in this one that makes it any different. I am confused as to how the political crisis ends with the resolution of al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq. I grasp that the bulk of the US press messes up the timeline but Iraqiya announced their walkout on a Friday, the following Saturday is when Nouri began attacking al-Hashemi publicly and two days later, Monday, December 19th, is when the arrest warrant for al-Hashemi was issued. The point being, the political crisis is about more than those two officials. It is about the failure to implement the Erbil Agreement and Nouri's power-grabs primarily. That's why there's been the call -- by Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi for a national conference. Clearly a national conference couldn't resolve the al-Hashemi issue ("clearly" because various participants have demanded that it not be part of the national conference). Aswat al-Iraq notes National Alliance MP Mohammed al-Sayhood is okay with Iraqiya continuing their walkout and believes it may be a "step forward for the emerging democatic process in Iraq." Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports Iraqiya meets tomorrow to determine whether or not they continue their boycott
Nouri started the political crisis and he started a row with Turkey. Along with speaking to al-Sistani's representative, Aswat al-Iraq reports:
Iraq's President Jalal Talabani has received a phone call from Turkish President Abdullah Gull, the first of its kind since the crisis that occurred due to the so-called "crisis of statements" between both countries, a presidential statement reported on Tuesday. The statement, as was received by Aswat al-Iraq news agency, stressed that "during his phone call with Talabani, Gull wished continued health and prosperity for the Iraqi President," reiterating the significance of continued efforts, exerted to achieve national consensus and his continuous efforts to expand relations of friendship and cooperation between Iraq and Turkey."
Hurriyet Daily News reports the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's leader Ammar al-Hakim went to Turkey to meet with Preisdent Abullah Gul, Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutogu -- but that the public exchanges between Nouri and Recep Taylor would not be the focus of the meetings. And while al-Hakim met with officials of one of Iraq's largest trading partners, Nouri sounded off again. Today's Zaman explains, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday again criticized Turkey's 'interference' in Iraq's affairs, waring Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Edrogan to change his tone in a weeks-long battle of words between Maliki and his Turkish counterpart."
"What do they want to achieve?" says this man watching the latest victims being carried away. "What do they want from all these killings? Will this end? What did the people do to be killed? A blind man who sells newspapers, another selling soup. What did those innocent people do? What do they want from the people?"
Violence continues today. Deng Shahsa (Xinhua) notes Sahwa leader Mulla Nadhim al-Jubouri was shot dead Tuesday night in Dhuluiyah: "Jubouri, who is introduced by the media as an expert with al- Qaida affairs, was a member of Dhuluiyah's most respected religious families. He first joined al-Qaida to fight the Americans after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, but then he switched sides to become leader of one of the U.S.-backed Awakening Councils that fought al-Qaida in his volatile country in north of Baghdad." Sammer N. Yaccoub (AP) adds that three years ago, the US detained him on suspicion of bringing down a US helicopter in 2006 and that "Postings on an Islamic extremist website celebrated al-Jubouri's death." Reuters notes a Baquba roadside bombing which injured one police officer.
Turning to the United States where Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which has just released their updated hearing schedule:
Committee on Veterans' Affairs
United States Senate
112th Congress, Second Session
Update: January 25, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012 2:30 pm 345 Cannon HOB
Joint Hearing: Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans
Wednesday, February 29, 2012 10 am SR-418
Hearing: The Fiscal Year 2013 Budget for Veterans' Programs
Wednesday, March 7, 2012 10 am SDG-50
Joint Hearing: Legislative Presentation of the Veternas of Foreign Wars
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 10 am SR-418
Hearing: Ending Homelessness Among Veterans: VA's Progress on its 5 Year Plan
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 10 am SDG-50
Joint Hearing :Legislative Presentation of the MIlitary Order of the Purple Heart, IAVA, Non Commissioned Officers Association, American Ex-Prisoners of War, Vietnam Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, and The Retired Enlisted Association
Thursday, March 22, 2012 10 am 345 Cannon HOB
Joint Hearing: Legislative Presentation of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Air Force Sergeants Association, Blinded Veterans Association, AMVETS, Gold Star Wives, Fleet Reserve Association, Military Officers Association of America and the Jewish War Veterans
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 10 am SR-418
Nomination Hearing: Nomination of Margaret Bartley to be Judge of United States Court of Veterans Appeals for Veterans Claims and Coral Wong Pietsch to be Judge of United States Court of Veterans Appeals for Veterans Claims
Matthew T. Lawrence
Chief Clerk/System Administrator
Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Lastly, many US service members and veterans, as well as contractors, have returned to the US sick due to exposure to burn pits. For some, these are breathing issues that cause hardship, tremendous hardship. For others, the exposure has cost them their lives. Next month is the first ever scientific symposium on Burn Pits:
1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deplyoment to Iraq & Afghanistan
Studies Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research
and Engineering Laboratory, Manchester, NH)
3:15 - 3:45 Toxicologically Relevant Characteristics of Desert Dust and Other
Atmospheric Particulate Matter, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Ph.D. (Research
Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)
3:44 - 4:15 In-situ Mineralogy of the Lung and Lymph Nodes, Gregory Meeker, M.S.
(Research Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)
Continuing Medical Education Credits
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