Monday, February 13, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, more prep meetings for a national conference, Iraqi women stage a demonstration, Barack needs more billions for the Iraq War (that hasn't ended), an MIT professor embarrasses on the public stage (calm down, it's not Noam Chomsky), and more.
They grow 'em dumb at MIT. John Tirman thinks he has something to say at the Huffington Post but he's just huffing and puffing. He wants you to know that the Conflict Zone photo exhibit at New York City Fire Museum, ignores Iraqi suffering. Does it? I don't know. I haven't toured the exhibit. So I won't offer an opinion on it. John Tirman hasn't toured it either but he saw a few photos online and that made an 'expert.' MIT grows 'em dumb because it encourages stupidity, fearless stupidity. In Friday's snapshot we noted four of five participants in the New York Times' Thursday "Room for Debate" feature. Tirman notes it as well . . . in order to defend Barack Obama.
Like most worthless whores of the last few years, he trashes the Clinton administration because he thinks that makes him look like less of a whore and independent. ("Look, I trashed a Demorat!") No, it doesn't. It's the second oldest trick in the whore's book. (I believe the first oldest is stealing money out of john's wallet while the john sleeps.) The most blessed thing about a second Barack administration would be the absence of Hillary Clinton and the inability of all these little pricks to continue to blame her for everything he does. That's not me wishing for a second term for Barack, that's me saying, if it happens, there's one positive aspect of it right there.
Tirman's just another cheap whore for Barack, unable and unwilling to address reality. Pretending to give a damn about the dead in Iraq . . . as long as he can pretend the dying stopped after Bully Boy Bush left the White House.
Since the US-withdrawal from Iraq approximately 500 Iraqis have been killed across the country. This is the highest death and casualty toll in the past five years. The recent attacks have mostly occurred in Shiite neighborhoods and intensified a sectarian tension between Sunnis and Shiites. This tension flamed up with the recent conflict between Sunni Arab Vice President Al-Hashimi and Shiite PM Al-Maliki and has turned into a political crisis. Al-Maliki has accused Al-Hashimi of assisting a terrorist car bombing supposedly aimed to assassinate Al-Maliki. For that reason an arrest warrant has been issued against Al-Hashimi after which he fled to Kurdistan. This has agitated Al-Hashimi and Sunni Arab members of parliament who blame Al-Maliki's political tendency to dominate power centers, rule extra-constitutionally, and deny the rights of Sunni federated regions as in the case of Kurdistan.
Tirman ignores all that. That someone at MIT could be as dishonest as Tirman is very telling about the decay in US academia. Like a good little whore for Barack, he wants to distract because if he can't go to "the war is illegal!" and bash Bush for starting it, he might have to note that continuing an illegal war is just as wrong -- something Barack did. So he ignores the arguments that were put forward in the forum. He can't handle the arguments, his mind isn't equipped for it. And in the process, the idiot allows the right wing to win. That's not how we engaged on the left, by throwing up a lot a smoke and trying to distract from the points being made. Tirman is not just dishonest, he's embarrassing.
Nouri al-Maliki? He huffs, "They are not only upset about the hasty retreat, but the residual support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom they find distasteful." It takes extreme stupidity or whoredom to be responsible for that sentence. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and many others are calling out Nouri al-Maliki. But because some right-wingers and some centrists also do, Tirman must reflexively take the opposing side? That's academically and intellectually dishonest.
The dishonesty abounds. We'll take one paragraph as an example and break it up into bits.
"Putting aside for a moment the fact that the timetable for withdrawal was set by President Bush,"
He's referring to the SOFA (Status Of Forces Agreement) which extended the US military occupation of Iraq from 2008 to 2011.
"the impossibility of extending that timeline foiled by the Haditha massacre (the result of which is Iraq's refusal to sustain U.S. criminal immunity),"
First, "the impossibility of extending that timeline foiled by . . ." What the hell is he trying to say? Extending the timeline of the SOFA was an impossibility that Haditha foiled? If it foiled the impossibility -- pay attention, MIT -- that would mean the extension wasn't an impossibility.
Regardless of what he's trying to say, the Barack administration did attempt to extend the SOFA, did attempt to enter into a new agreement and, according to Michele Flournoy, is now back in negotiations with Iraq for a US military presence. From the January 30th snapshot:
Like many dabblers, he goes to Haditha for outrage when Haditha was only one of the outrage and not even the most outrageous to Iraq. There's an Iraqi on trial in the US. For a crime that is less than what was done to 14-year-old Abeer and her family (in the US, the accused is accused of rape only -- not gang-rape and multiple murders). That case is followed in the Iraqi media. The anger over no one being put to death for the murder of a family of a four, for the gang-rape of a 14-year-old girl, has not gone away. There's Abu Ghraib, there's so much. But dabblers go with Haditha. It's a reference they can sprinkle into their pre-written sermons.
"that Maliki's power was consolidated under Bush,"
In March 2010, Iraq held elections. This was followed by an eight-month political stalemate because Nouri refused to surrender the post of prime minister. He never would have been able to bring Iraq to a standstill for eight months without the backing of the White House and that's President Barack Obama's White House. Yes, Bully Boy Bush and company installed a thug they thought would be an easy puppet and push through the oil & gas law they wanted. No question of that. But Nouri al-Maliki was not the choice of the Iraqi people in 2010. And Nouri could have been ousted if the process -- outlined in the Constitution -- had been followed. Instead, he was able to hang onto a post because he had the White House backing. The Erbil Agreement reached by the political blocs? The US government drafted whole portions of that.
"and that a major promise of Obama's 2008 election was withdrawal from Iraq."
Was it a major promise in March of 2008 when Samantha Power revealed that it wasn't a promise? Let's drop back to the March 7, 2008 snapshot:
Stephen Sackur: You said that he'll revisit it [the decision to pull troops] when he goes to the White House. So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out within sixteen months, isn't a commitment is it?
Samantha Power: You can't make a commitment in whatever month we're in now, in March of 2008 about what circumstances are going to be like in January 2009. We can'te ven tell what Bush is up to in terms of troops pauses and so forth. He will of course not rely upon some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a US Senator.
The US still hasn't withdrawn from Iraq. Special Ops, the CIA, the FBI, 700 US service members as trainers (according to Tirman's beloved Nouri al-Maliki), drones and the 17,000 brigade known as the 'diplomatic corps' of the State Dept is not withdrawal. Barack did lie on the campaign trail in 2008, he swore one brigade a month and it would start when he was sworn in, the first thing he would do. And yet, that would have meant everyone out of Iraq in 2010. Barack didn't meet that promise.
"What is more troubling about the right-wing moaning is that they fail to mention that eight-year war that just ravaged the country. "
What is most troubling about whores for Barack is that they want to pretend that Iraq can now be ignored because they've got an election to whore for. Violence is up in Iraq. There's a political crisis in Iraq. You think they're outraged by Haditha? Did you miss their outrage over the US drones being flown in their country? (The State Dept says they're controlling the drones but many believe it's the CIA.)
Whores don't care about people, they just care about a person and they'll lie for him or her and that's all they'll do, that's all they ever do. They offer nothing to an honest debate because they hocked honesty at a pawn shop years ago. If you doubt it, note how many times Tirman tells you what the photo exhibit means -- the one he's never been to. The one he's seen just a few photos of online. You try attending a class as a student and giving a critical evaluation on, for example, Hesse's Steppenwolf after you admit you haven't read the book and see how that goes over.
To be specific, the Pentagon's brand-new budget request asks for $2.9 billion for what it calls "Post-Operation NEW DAWN (OND)/Iraq Activities." That's almost as much money as the Pentagon spends on Darpa, its mad-science arm. And there are practically no U.S. troops in Iraq.
RT adds, "After 'ending' the war last year, the US government handed Iraqi operations over to the State Department. Three billion dollars -- the amount that the DoD wants for a war they aren't waging -- makes up around one-ninth of the State Department's entire annual budget. In 2012, the Pentagon had asked for $11 billion to fight the War in Iraq -- which was, at the time, an actual war." The Defense Dept isn't the only one sticking their greedy hands out for US taxpayer dollars. Nicole Gauette (Bloomberg News) reports, "President Barack Obama's budget seeks $8.2 billion in 'extraordinary and temporary' funding for State Department responsibilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The request comes on top of the $43.4 billion proposed for the 'core' budget for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which manages foreign aid. As the military has pulled out of Iraq and drawn down in Afghanistan, the administration has turned to the State Department to oversee spending on political, security and economic projects, such as the $1.8 billion for Iraq police training and military assistance."
Aren't you glad Barack 'ended' the Iraq War and all those billions of US taxpayer dollars stopped being spent on it? Oh, that's right, neither of those things actually happened.
On other elements of the budget, specifically veterans issues, the office of Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, issues the following.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, February 13, 2012
Contact: Murray Press Office
Senator Murray's Statement on President Obama's VA Budget
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, issued the following statement on the President's Fiscal Year 2013 budget request for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"This is a budget that provides reassurance for our veterans in an extremely difficult budget climate. It represents a 15% increase over the VA budget enacted last year and provides critical help in the areas of mental health care and getting our veterans back to work. As a major influx of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans return home seeking care at the VA, there is no question that the investments this budget makes are sorely needed.
"I will continue to work with the VA on the few concern areas I have in this budget including in VA construction and maintenance. We must work to ensure the VA has the facilities to provide the state-of-the-art care our veterans deserve."
Staying on the topic of dollars, CNNMoney reports, "Exxon Mobil is being shut out of bidding on the next round of oil and gas exploration contracts in Iraq because of its decision to sign an exploration deal with Kurdistan's regional government in the northern part of that country." Apparently, they finally got tired of waiting for a reply to their strongly worded letters -- all these months later. Back in October, ExxonMobil signed a deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government. The central government out of Baghdad has been whining ever since. Whinnd barking but doing nothing. November 27th, Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reported that the central government took 'action,' that the Minister of Oil announced they'd sent ExxonMobil a letter -- and it wasn't their first letter to the company. Minister Abdul-Kareem Luaibi was quoted stating, "So far we have sent Exxon three letters and tomorrow we will send them another confirmation letter seeking their response." They sent three letters over approximately six weeks and ExxonMobil never responded to them so the new plan was to send them a letter asking them why they weren't responding to the previous three letters. He added, "We have not decided anything yet. We are waiting for their response." During that time, public threats were made about canceling the contract, forbidding ExxonMobil from doing business in Iraq and more. This morning, Hassan Hafidh (Wall St. Journal) reported Hussein al-Shahristani, Deputy Prime Minster for Energy, was declaring that ExxonMobil might be barred from the round of bidding scheduled to take place in May. They've whined for months and at least they finally did something. Not anything important, but something. Exxon Mobil is now barred from an auction that Big Oil already saw as a flea market and were intent on avoiding. As noted at Third yesterday:
Business and investment wise, money and business keeps going to the north. ExxonMobil is already going with the Kurdistan region and Reuters noted, "Total's chief executive said on Friday he was considering possible investments in Kurdistan, something which previously prompted the central Iraq government to bar companies from investing in the south of the country, and added he did not plan to chase contracts in Baghdad's next licensing round." Tara Patel (Bloomberg News) notes the company is "Europe's third-largest oil company" and that the three provinces which make up the Kurdistan Regional Government are "home to about 40% of the country's 115 billion barrels of reserves". Carin Hall (Energy Digital) explains, "Iraq opened up its vast reserves of oil to foreign investment after the Gulf War, but many find Baghdad's terms too stringent."
Dow Jones speaks today with KBC Energy Economics analyst Samuel Ciszuk who explains that the May auction will be for fixed-fee service contracts as opposed to "industry-standard production sharing contracts, where the oil company owns a portion of the oil in the ground and can profit from its sale" -- which may be another reason Big Oil's not excited about the May auction. Again falling back to Third yesterday:
Friday, Peg Mackey (Reuters) reported that Iraq is attempting to increase sourthern Iraq oil output by 100,000 barrels per day next month. This would result from a new floating port, one that Aswat al-Iraq reports is supposed to be "one of four similar projects," according to the Ministry of Oil's Asim Jihad. Nouri al-Maliki needs something and something to spin because he's not representing Iraq very well in any manner.
And Nouri tried to spin the new port. Ben Lando and Ali Abu Iraq (Iraq Oil Report) note that Nouri tried to stage a photo-op yesterday at the port with assistants handing out flowers and flags right before the cameras started clicking. But, also on Sunday,
Aswat al-Iraq reported MP Suzan al-Saad stated that there are problems and demands regarding Basra that must be addressed: "Some of the demands are for the services sector, as well as the start in building the Greater Fao Port."
Nouri's hoping to increase his prestige but the reality is there's no political gridlock in the KRG, they aren't trying to imprison rival politicians, they sit on an estimated 40% of Iraq's oil and they make efforts at public transparency. By contrast, the paranoid and unstable Nouri al-Maliki is forever screaming "Ba'athist" when ordering mass arrests, runs secret prisons, refuses to appoint a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of National Security though they should have been named (per the Constitution) no later than December 2010, pays thugs to harass Iraqi citizens who demonstrate in Tahrir Square, is unable to pass an oil and gas law despite having been installed as prime minister in 2006 to do just that, and worse.
And at some point, Iraq's going to need to develop other revenues. Dropping back to the November 21st snapshot:
Sounding alarms over the focus/reliance on oil is Iraq's Sunni vice president. KUNA reports, "Iraqi Vice-President Tareq Al-Hashimi warned on Sunday his country might witness a major financial crisis if oil prices fall in 2012 to an expected USD 85 per barrel. The annual budget for Iraq depends entirely on oil sales and imports, Al-Hashimi said during his participation in the 5th political forum of the Renewal Movement, adding that next year's budget has been estimated at USD 112 billion." The Voice of Russia adds, "Speaking on Sunday, the minister argued for speedy economic reconstruction and diversification away from oil and natural gas."
Any prestige that Nouri might be hoping for would plummet were oil prices to drop.
Violence hasn't dropped. Reuters notes a Kirkuk sticky bombing injured a teacher and two other people, a second Kirkuk sticky bombing injured a police officer and a Muqdadiya sticky bombing injured a Sahwa ("Awakening," "Sons Of Iraq"). In addition, Aswat al-Iraq reports Sahwa leader Saad al-Shamarri and two of his bodyguards were shot dead in Anbar Province (two more guards were injured) when unknown gunmen attacked their car. Aswat al-Iraq notes that this was the tenth known attempt on Saad al-Shamarri's life.
Today, the country is deeply divided along sectarian lines. The government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki remains hostage to its own ambition to reign unchallenged. Maliki, a Shiite, has centralised decisive power in himself and is now pursuing a campaign to stamp out all Sunni challenges to his reign. His orders that saw hundreds of Sunnis belonging to the now defunct Baathist Party being detained and his push to have the vice president, Tareg Al Hashim, tried on "terrorism" charges and Saleh Al Mutlaq, the deputy prime minister, expelled from the Cabinet for criticising him are all part of that campaign. An arrest warrant has been issued for Hashimi, and 16 of his bodyguards have been arrested.
Over the weekend, another meet-up for the much anticipated national conference took place. Since December, President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national conference to address the political crisis. All that has taken place thus far is a handful of planning sessions. Omar Abdel-Latif (Al Sabaah) reports that Talabani and al-Nujaifi meet with Nouri and representatives for the National Alliance, Iraqiya and the Kurdish Alliance. The meeting is supposed to address various proposals put forward in written format by various political blocs. This prep meeting will be followed by . . . another prep meeting currently scheduled for Wednesday. Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports that al-Nujaifi declared of yesterday's meeting that the proposals from Iraqiya and the Kurdish Alliance were discussed. In Iraqiya's written proposals, they address the issues of Tareq al-Hashemi and Saleh al-Mutlaq -- issues Nouri's State of Law has insisted will not be addressed at the national conference. Dar Addustour notes that the issues are pretty much tabled with agreement from the majority that al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq will not be addressed at the national conference. Aswat al-Iraq reports that the Sadrist bloc is stating that Iraqiya has agreed to withdraw discussions of al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq from the national conference. Nevzat Hmedin (Al Mada) focuses on the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's Ammar al-Hakim who is stating that the paper his bloc (part of the National Alliance and, along with Nouri and Moqtada al-Sadr, one of the major players in the National Alliance slate) presented addresses the issues of provincial powers and rights, specifically that it calls for increased powers for the provincial councils and for the provinces to receive a larger slice of the national budget. al-Hakim also states that Ninveh Province council members should end their ongoing boycott of local government.
Now Rasheed reflects on his country's turn toward religious extremism: he describes a pre-invasion Iraq in which women were professionals and fairly emancipated, whereas now women wear headscarves under pressure, "for a peaceful life". His friend, a young Iraqi actress named Zahra Zubaidi, had to flee the Middle East after having played a rape victim in Brian de Palma's film Redacted; she has since emigrated to New York. Constant intimidation by religious extremists and political factions is the intellectual's fate in Iraq today. And yet Rasheed refuses to be discreet: "Everything I believe, I believe in it," he says. "I cannot lie or not answer the questions."
Iraqi women led a protest for their rights and that was significant. You know it was significant because the New York Times never said a word about it.
Saturday, Al Mada reported a group of women demonstrated in Iraq on Baghdad's Mutanabi Street -- a large number of women from the picture -- to salute Iraq women and the pioneering Iraqi women of the 20th century feminist movement. The women noted the widespread discrimination against women (illegal under the country's Constitution). Dr. Buthaina Sharif made remarks about how the rights of women are a cause for all men and women to share. Dr. Sharif saluted Paulina Hassoun who, in 1923, edited Iraq's first feminist magazine Layla ("On the way to the revival of the Iraqi woman"). She spoke to Iraq's long history of social progress in the 20th century and decried the violence aimed at so many women today. (The UN estimates that one out of five Iraqi women is a victim of domestic violence.) Those demonstrating had passed a list of recommendations.
1) The Constitution must be followed. 2) The government needs to establish a fund for women -- women who are widows and women whose husbands have left them. 3) Publis assistance for the education of girls to prevent them from being forced to drop out. 4) Subsidies for young families which would encourage marriage and building families. 5) Better housing for women and priority on housing lists. 6) Training sessions should be opened to women and job creation should keep their qualifications in mind. 7) Double the amount guaranteed by the ration card. 8) Efforts to discredit women by sullying their names with false rumors should result in prosecution in court. 9) Freedom and unity is for all and that includes women. 10) Restore normal life by providing potable water (safe to drink) and electricity. 11) create a Higher National Committee of women and men from different backgrounds and ages Nora Khaled Mahmoud and Mahmoud Raouf filed a follow up piece for Al Mada on the demonstration noting that it included intellectuals and activists and could said to have been prompted by the Minster for Women's recent remarks that men and women were not equal and her insistance upon dictating how women dress. The note Iraqi women spoke of women's history being a continuum of two experiences: Injustice and triumph. Women face injustice and they triumph over it. They declared that democracy is traveling around the world and that Iraq must be a good model for it. They noted that, throughout the women's movement in Iraq, women and men have taken part in the struggle for equality and that, as early as the 20s and 30s, Iraqi clerics joined in the demands for equality for all. Women, they insisted, must not lose their freedom and that this is even more clear when they hear the Minister for Women publicly declaring she does not believe in equality. While that's her opinion, the women state, that's not the opinion of alll women and it's not the opinion of the Constitution. Journalist and feminist Nermin Mufti declared that civil liberties and personal freedoms are declining in Iraq and that the Minister for Women should represent the interests of Iraqi women and seek to claim the rights guaranteed to women, not rob them of their rights little by little.
That protest may kick off this month's protests in Baghdad. Dar Addustour reports that Iraqi intellectuals are calling for a protest on the first anniversary of protests led by Iraqi youths in Baghdad's Tahrir Square. This kicked off Friday protests which do continue. A very small number currently because Nouri al-Maliki's hired thugs swarm Tahrir Square and shout down Iraqi citizens.