Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, May 1, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, talk of Iraq splitting into three regions, whispers of Iran's control of Iraq, Kuwait wants Iraq to pay a bill in full, the western press embarrasses itself again on the monthly count, Barack 'proudly' sneaks into Afghanistan, a US veteran wrongly fired wins in court, and more.
Starting in the US with a jury verdict.  Levi Pulkkinen (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reports a federal Jury in Seattle has returned a verdict "late Monday" which found Catholic Community Services wrongly terminated Grace Campbell's employment upon learning that the Washington National Guard sergeant had been ordered to deploy to Iraq.  It is against the law to fire someone because they are being deployed or will be deployed.  The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act is among the legislation that forbids this.  However, at a February 2nd House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hearing, many witnesses and House members seemed unaware of this fact.  There was talk of the need for a law.  No, there is only the need for education of that law and enforcing that law is the quickest way in the world to educate employers about it.  They start having to pay hefty fines, they'll suddenly learn that law.
Gordon Thomas Honeywell LLP represented Grace Campbell and they've released the following statement:
A federal jury today in Seattle awarded $485,000 to Washington National Guard Sergeant Grace Campbell and found that her employer had engaged in willful discrimination and harassment based on her military service. In 2008, Sergeant Campbell's civilian employer Catholic Community Services fired her from her position of ten years when it learned that she was set to deploy for active service in Iraq. After her termination, Sergeant Campbell served in Iraq from October 2008 to August 2009, returning home to the Everett area without civilian work.
Catholic Community Services' hostile treatment of Campbell began in 2006 after she returned from active duty at the U.S. Mexican border. During Campbell's activation, her position with CCS was left unstaffed. Campbell's manager and her co-workers resented Campbell's absence and the increased workload. Upon her return, Campbell's manager and co-workers began a systematic campaign of harassment and discrimination that included threats by Campbell's manager to fire Campbell if it was learned that she had volunteered for duty.
Campbell complained repeatedly to multiple levels of management at Catholic Community Services about the discrimination, but it continued unchecked. In an effort to find relief, Campbell made a complaint to the Employer Support for Guard and Reserve (ESGR), the Department of Defense national committee tasked with providing support to the Guard and Reserve in their civilian employment. In December of 2006, a retired Naval Reserve Commander with ESGR met with Campbell's managers in an attempt to resolve the problems Campbell was facing at work. Despite ESGR's involvement, the hostile treatment of Campbell continued on into 2007 and 2008.
In February 2008, Campbell told CCS co-workers that she was preparing to deploy to Iraq later that year with the Washington National Guard 81st Brigade. On March 20, 2008, Catholic Community Services fired Campbell.
Campbell's attorneys James W. Beck and Andrea H. McNeely, Partners at Gordon Thomas Honeywell, are pleased with the verdict. "This was a situation which never should have occurred," said Beck. "Sergeant Campbell told her employer about the ongoing discrimination on at least three occasions, but there was never any formal investigation or decisive action to stop the treatment." The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act ("USERRA") prohibits harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against Guard members related to their service. "This is a vindication of the rights of Grace Campbell and those like her who make sacrifices in their civilian lives to serve their country," said McNeely. "Moreover," said Beck, "when the time came at trial for CCS to produce a key document that it claimed was central to its reason for terminating Campbell, the company had destroyed the document." After a two year job search, Campbell is now employed as a receptionist with the Department of Social and Health Services in Seattle.
What happened is not an isolated incident, it's happened across the country and unless businesses realize it's much smarter to settle out of court, look for more reports on jury verdicts against companies who have illegaly fired people because they were deployed or were going to be deployed.  Again, firing someone for a military deployment is against federal law.
Elsewhere, Kuwait wants justice as well.  The Kuwait Times reports, "Kuwait yesterday 'stressed need' for Ira'qs continuing regular deposits in the UN war compensation fund in line with relevant international resolutions.  Kuwait stressed the need for continuation of reuglar deposits in the Compensation Fund, as provided for in UN Security Council Resolution 1956 (2010), of five percent of the proceeds from all export sales of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas of Iraq . . ."  This position was made clear by Khaled al-Mudhaf who addressed the Governing Council of the United Nations Compensation Commission yesterday.  al-Mudhaf chairs the Public Ahtority for Assessment of Compensations for Damages Resulting from the Iraqi Agression.  (Kuwait also has a successful international race car driver by that name and a World Champion Trap Shooter by that name -- the latter of which competed in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.)  The amount still owed, according to al-Mudhaf's statements, is $16 billion. 
The remarks are not just a call for billions to be paid, they're also a bit of realtiy for Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug of Iraq.  In the lead up to the March 27th Arab League Summit in March, Nouri made efforts to establish ties to Kuwait and Kuwait ended up standing by Nouri at the Summit, the only major country that did.  Over half the heads of state of Arab countries refused to attend with some, like Qatar, making a public statement that this was an intentional boycott.  But Nouri had Kuwait and some Arab officials whispered to the press that Kuwait was prostituting itself.  If that were true, it would appear that Kuwait has now made clear to Nouri the bill for a paid escort.  If the whisper was a slur against the reputation of Kuwait, then Nouri's still learned that all his visits and public woo-ing didn't mean a thing.  This also hurts  
26 April 2012 –
The United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC), which settles the damage claims of those who suffered losses due to Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, today made a total of $1.02 billion available to six successful claimants.
The latest round of payments brings the total amount of compensation disbursed by the Commission to $36.4 billion for more than 1.5 million successful claims of individuals, corporations, Governments and international organizations, according to a UNCC news release.
Successful claims are paid with funds drawn from the UN Compensation Fund, which is funded by a percentage of the proceeds generated by the export sales of Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products.
The Geneva-based UNCC's Governing Council has identified six categories of claims: four are for individuals' claims, one for corporations and one for governments and international organizations, which also includes claims for environmental damage.
The Commission was established in 1991 as a subsidiary organ of the UN Security Council. It has received nearly three million claims, including from close to 100 governments for themselves, their nationals or their corporations.
Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey (Pravda) weighs in calling international compensation a "joke" and insisting that Iraq has been treated unfairly due to the fact that there's "no mention of cross-drilling of oil, tapping into Iraqi fields, there has been no mention of compensation payable to Iraq, and other countries, for the invasion by NATO countries."   On the topic of big money, AFP runs today with the report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction's report that US taxpayer dollars may have gone to Iraqi insurgents, resistance, al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, etc.  This is the topic Eli Lake (Daily Beast) was reporting on yesterday, "A 2012 audit conducted by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and released to the public on Monday found that 76 percent of the battalion commanders surveyed believed at least some of the CERP funds had been lost to fraud and corruption."
Yesterday,  the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction released April 2012: Quarterly Report To Congress. As the report notes, the US State Dept is spending $500 million of US taxpayer dollars on training the Iraqi police for the 2012 Fiscal Year.  Let's talk about that training:
AFP reports they're on a US military base being retrained.  BBC reports: "A programme has been under way for more than a month for comprehensive assessment and re-training of all national police unites -- a process called by the Americans 'transofrmational training.'"  James Hider (Times of London) reports that since 2004, "US forces have been re-training the Iraqi police, but the programme has had little impact" and that a "survivor of Monday's mass kidnapping . . . described how half a dozen vehicles, with official security forces markings on them, pulled up and men in military fatigues rounded up all the Sunnis in the shops."
That's not today.  That's from the October 4, 2006 snapshot. Let's drop back to February 8th:
We covered the November 30th House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the MiddleEast and South Asia in the December 1st snapshot and noted that Ranking Member Gary Ackerman had several questions. He declared, "Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the [police training] program?  Interviews with senior Iaqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter didain for the program.  When the Iraqis sugest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States. I think that might be a clue."  The State Dept's Brooke Darby faced that Subcommittee. Ranking Member Gary Ackerman noted that the US had already spent 8 years training the Iraq police force and wanted Darby to answer as to whether it would take another 8 years before that training was complete?  Her reply was, "I'm not prepared to put a time limit on it."  She could and did talk up Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior Adnan al-Asadi as a great friend to the US government.  But Ackerman and Subcommittee Chair Steve Chabot had already noted Adnan al-Asadi, but not by name.  That's the Iraqi official, for example, Ackerman was referring to who made the suggestion "that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States."  He made that remark to SIGIR Stuart Bowen.
Brooke Darby noted that he didn't deny that comment or retract it; however, she had spoken with him and he felt US trainers and training from the US was needed.  The big question was never asked in the hearing: If the US government wants to know about this $500 million it is about to spend covering the 2012 training of the Ministry of the Interior's police, why are they talking to the Deputy Minister?
After 8 years of spending US tax payer dollars on this program and on the verge of spending $500 million, why is the US not talking to the person in charge ofthe Interior Ministry?
Because Nouri never named a nominee to head it so Parliament had no one to vote on.  Nouri refused to name someone to head the US ministry but the administration thinks it's okay to use $500 million of US tax payer dollars to train people with a ministry that has no head?
There's no mention in the report that the Iraqi government is matching that $500 million with $500 million of their own.  That may be one of those facts we have to wait to find out about "later this year," to quote another section of the report.  Going through "Iraqi Funding" notes many efforts but not on police.  And yet last December 7th, Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconsturction, specifically raised that required matching fund when he appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform's Nationl Security Subcommittee.
US House Rep Raul Labrador: So what other problems have you found with the police development program, if any?
SIGIR Stuart Bowen: Several.  Well, Mr. Labrador, we pointed out in our audit that, one Iraqi buy-in, something that the Congress requires from Iraq, by law, that is a contribution of 50% to such programs,has not been secured -- in writing, in fact, or by any other means. That's of great concern.  Especially for a Ministry that has a budget of over $6 billion, a government that just approved, notionally, a hundred billion dollar budget for next year.  It's not Afghanistan.  This is a country that has signficant wealth, should be able to contribute but has not been forced to do so, in a program as crucial as this.
To be clear, this isn't optional.  To be even more clear, the White House should never have committed $500 million without Iraq having met the matching fund requirement -- required by Congress. 
Where is the oversight?
It's not coming from the press.
Eager to flaunt both ignorance and incompetence Kareem Raheem, Aseel Kami and Angus MacSwan (Reuters) and AFP ran with the 'official' figures provided by the Iraqi government for deaths due to violence in the month of April.  The death toll is 126.  That's based on figures from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior.
That's what the incompetent wire services told us.  They forgot to tell you that the Ministry of Defense has no minister -- Nouri never nominated anyone so he could illegaly take charge of it -- and the that Ministry of the Interior has no minister -- for the same reason. 
And the Minister of Health?
This may be the worst demonstration of press whoring in Iraq currently.  Salih Mahdi Motalab al-Hasanawi held that post in Nouri's first term and holds it in the second term and is falsely described as "a Shi'ite Muslim, but independent of any political party."  That's not how you describe him -- though the press does and he does on his Facebook page.  Reality: In 2009, he joined what political slate?  State of Law.  Nouri's State of Law.  He's not independent.  He may not be a member of a political party (Nouri's political party is Dawa) but he chose to join -- in September of 2009 -- Nouri's State of Law.  He belongs to a political slate, he is not independent.
So Nouri's flunkies issue some figures and whores in the press who don't have the self-respect or training to do what a reporter does runs with those awful lies.  They make no effort to provide alternate counts or any context at all.  They simply take dictation and say, 'This is what offiicals say.'  It's whoring, it's not reporting.
The IBC count is 290 for the month of April. (Click here for screen snap.)  Iraq Body Count tracks reported deaths in the press and notes that their count is not a complete count.  Once upon a time, the press was happy to provide the IBC count, now they just whore.
Like most whores when busted, they have an excuse of how they weren't really whoring, you understand.  And AFP and Reuters would insist that these are official figures from a government.  Official figures, yes.  But ones that are known to be false.
Not just known because I say so (and have said so for months and years) but because what got released yesterday.  Let's return to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction released April 2012: Quarterly Report To Congress. For the non-reading and apparently illiterates working for wire services, we'll even provide the page number: Page 3.  Here it is:
Record Low Casualty Figures for March.
The GOI [Government of Iraq] reported that 112 Iraqis -- 78 civilians and 34 ISF personnel -- died as a result of violent attacks in March 2012, the lowest monthly death toll reported by the GOI since the U.S.-led invasion nine years ago.  For the quater, the GOI reported that 413 Iraqis died in violent incidents, with 151 deaths in January and 150 in February.  However, according to data collected by the UN, 1,048 Iraqis died this quarter, more than twice the total provided by the GOI.
And, AFP and Reuters, that report?  It also references the Iraq Body Count.  It's a shame that the press is too lazy to do the job they're paid for.  And, yes, I realize the press in Iraq is scared.  Another story you refuse to report on, by the way.  That's why the Los Angeles Times runs stories from Iraq with no byline and has for months since Ned Parker left.  But no one's supposed to talk about that either.  The fact that those working for western outlets are scared to death to tell the truth about Iraq for fear of retaliation is a secret we're all supposed to keep.  I believe the saying is: Secrets keep us sick.  They certainly do no favors to the alleged profession of journalism. And they distort the reality of Iraq which provides even more cover for a petty tyrant like Nouri al-Maliki.
Today's violence?  Alsumaria reports that a Mosul car bombing left sixteen people injured while an attack on a Mosul checkpoint killed 1 security officer, 1 Yezidi died in Mosul (possibly a suicide), 1 corpse was discovered on the side of the raod outside Baghdad and the body of Ahmed Ajeel Aftan was found shot dead and tossed to the side of the road over 30 miles outside of Hillah.
Turning to the political crisis Nouri al-Maliki has created in Iraq.  Peter Galbraith is a US diplomat.  When needed, we've called him out here.  I've known Peter for years and that didn't cut him any slack here.  We're not rehashing that past, we're focusing on his political insights which I have never had cause to question.  Galbraith speaks to Rudaw about the ongoing crisis:
Rudaw: Right now, Iraq is in political turmoil and most parties accuse PM Nuri al-Maliki of violating the constitution. Do you think he has violated the constitution? 
Peter Galbraith: Clearly, he is not following the constitution. He is not respecting Kurdistan's rights, including those over natural resources, and he has not held the constitutionally required referendum on Kirkuk and other disputed areas.
Rudaw: Kurdish leaders blame Maliki for not sharing power and consolidating all of it in his own hands. Do you think those accusations are correct?
Peter Galbraith: Yes. They are correct.
Rudaw: Barzani says that Maliki is only killing time and doesn't want to solve important issues such as Article 140 regarding the disputed territories and the oil and gas issue. He also says that if the situation continues like this, he will let the people of Kurdistan decide their own future through a referendum.  Does the Iraqi constitution give the Kurds the right to separate from Iraq?
Peter Galbraith: The Kurds agreed to stay in Iraq on the basis of the constitution in its entirety. If the Baghdad government does not keep its part of the bargain, then the basis for Kurdistan's continued membership in Iraq no longer exists. 
The political crisis has deep roots.  It's best explained in Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi's [PDF format warning] "The State Of Iraq"  (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace):

Within days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocractic country governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by institutional arrangements.  Large-scale violence immediately flared up again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
But there is more to the crisis than an escalation of violence.  The tenuous political agreement among parties and factions reached at the end of 2010 has collapsed.  The government of national unity has stopped functioning, and provinces that want to become regions with autonomous power comparable to Kurdistan's are putting increasing pressure on the central government.  Unless a new political agreement is reached soon, Iraq may plunge into civil war or split apart. 
Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman Tweeted the following today:

After the meetings in #Erbil a date must be set for the general meeting in #Baghdad to try to settle the problems as per the constitution.

Over the weekend, there was a big meet-up in Erbil attended by many -- Nouri al-Maliki was not invited.  Hurriyet Daily News observes:
A statement issued after the meeting in Arbil said the leaders "stressed the need for finding ways to dismantle the crisis, the continuation of which puts the supreme national interests in danger." They also discussed "ways to strengthen the democratic process." The talks were hosted by Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and included Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, as well as former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and hard-line cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, both Shiites. Parliamentary Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni, also took part.
 Al Mada notes that Moqtada is denying that he was pressured in 2010 to throw his support behind Nouri al-Maliki.  There is some blame being tossed Moqtada's way for his support of Nouri and he was asked about this issue in his online column where he plays Dear Abby to his followers.  Again, he denied there was any pressure.  (He was pressured by Tehran.)   On the subject of Iran, Heather Robinson (The Algemeiner) reports form Iraqi MP Mithal al-Alusi is calling Iraq a client state of Iran ("tool of Iran") and Robinson's article covers a wide range of topics including:
In February, he told this reporter that Iraq's Central Bank was processing hundreds of millions of dollars a day more than usual, and that, according to sources within the bank, Iran's agents were behind this financial maneuvering. He also said that, according to sources within the Iraqi intelligence community, the same individuals who were  "buying hundreds of millions of dollars in cash" from Iraq's Central Bank were arranging for these dollars to be carried from Iraq into Syria, and then transported to Iran in order to skirt the U.S.-led sanctions.
"We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in cash going in to Syria–in suitcases–and then it goes to Iran," he said at the time.
In early April, it was reported that the Central Bank of Iraq had tightened its clampdown on its sales of dollars -- due to concerns that buyers were using them to launder money and circumvent U.S.-led sanctions against Iran and Syria.
Last week Alusi provided more examples of what he characterized as large-scale Iranian interference in Iraq that he believes are intended to pave the way for Iranian domination of the Mideast.
Iran may or may not dominate Iraq but it's not going to be able to dominate the MidEast.  The Arab states would never allow that to happen.  Iraq truly is Iran's best shot at domination.  While the Iraqi people -- regardless of sect -- are not keen to be controlled by Iran, the US or any other country, the loyalities of many officials and rulers to Iraq  have long been in question -- Nouri's loyalties have probably been the most questioned -- even more so than Ahmed Chalabi's. 
While US efforts (largely led by Vice President Joe Biden) and UN efforts (largely led by the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy Martin Kobler), they haven't been the only ones.  There's Tehran, of course.  Other players also include England.  The Kurdish Globe reports:

Britain's Ambassador to Iraq on Friday concluded a one-week visit to the Kurdistan Region by meetingwith President Masoud Barzani and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. He visited all three of the Region's governorates, meeting students, officials and civil society representatives.
Ambassador Michael Aron met with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials and visited all three provinces of the Kurdistan Region to discuss the ongoing political crisis in Iraq as well as recent developments inthe Middle East as a whole. He also explored how to further develop the already strong links between the United Kingdom and the Kurdistan Region.

At Saturday's meet-up it was decided that the Erbil Agreement must be implemented (Nouri used the agreement to become prime minister and then trashed it).  In addition, Moqtada pushed his 18 point plan.  Al Mada reports that State of Law is insisting that the 18-point plan is an accordance with the National Alliance .  The Iraqi Communist Party's newspaper reports that the Erbil meeting found Moqtada completely rejecting the notion of withdrawing confidence from Nouri.  A no-confidence vote would mean a new prime minister could be voted on by the Parliament.  What comes next in Iraq is not known but Ipek Yezdani (Hurriyet Daily News) has a provocative article which includes:
"Almost all the political figures in the region assume that Iraq will be divided into three in the end. The crucial thing is this division should not lead to a civil and sectarian war in Iraq," Rebwar Kerim Wali told the Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview.
Leaders from almost all of Iraq's top political blocs will convene at a unity meeting in Arbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region, on May 7, in order to find a solution to the political crisis between the Shiite-led government and the country's Sunnis and Kurds.
Iraqi Prime Minister
Nouri al-Maliki will probably not attend the unity meeting, Wali also a managing editor of Rudaw, the first international newspaper of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said. "KRG leader Barzani; Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shiite leader of the Iraqi National Alliance; Iyad Allawi, the leader of the Al Iraqiyya group, and Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi are all expected to attend the meeting. They will be seeking a solution to the current crisis in order to prevent any ethnic and sectarian conflict in Iraq as well as searching for alternatives to al-Maliki's rule."
Meanwhile in what may be a minor effort at reconciliation, Al Mada reports Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law is saying they can resolve the issue of Saleh al-Mutlaq.

In the middle of December, Nouri al-Maliki met with US President Barack Obama in DC.  Upon returning home he began targeting polical rivals in Iraqiya.  (Iraqiya came in first in the 2010 Parliamentary elections besting Nouri's State of Law.)  Nouri demanded that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested on charges of terrorism and that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post.

State of Law is stating currently that the issue of al-Multaq can be resolved by the political blocs.  It's very minor in terms of reconciliation.  Very minor.  Inconsequential.

Nouri's been calling for al-Mutlaq to be stripped of his post since December.  Nouri can flap his wings and crow all he wants, the only one a Cabinet member can be removed from their post is a vote by the Parliament.  Nouri's stomped his feet for months now and al-Mutlaq's still Deputy Prime Minister.  The Constitution explains the issue is resolved by the Parliament.  So State of Law offers that political blocs can resolve this issue?  They're actually still refusing to follow the Constitution.

That needs to be pointed out.

You want to remove a member of the Cabinet?  The Iraqi Constitution explains how that's done.  If you can't get enough votes for that, the person remains a member of the Cabinet.  Nouri knows that.  It's why he refused to nominate ministers to head the security ministries.  If there was a Minister of Interior, Nouri might not be able to control the ministry because the minister wouldn't fear losing their job.  
As for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a trial against him is scheduled to begin Thursday.  He will remain in Turkey having already noted that the Baghdad judiciary is not independent.  That judiciary also demonstrated that they refuse to follow the Constitution and that they pre-judged him as guilty before any hearing took place. Today Alsumaria reports Iraiqya noted that the trial is a violation of both the law and the Constitution for many reasons, chief among them that the Vice President still holds his post and cannot be put on trial unless Parliament dismisses him. 
Around the world today, May Day was celebrated.  That includes in Iraq and AFP has ten photos of May Day actions in Iraq here.  US political prisoner Lynne Stewart (Black Agenda Report) explains:
May Day, a celebration of the Worker and May Day, a commemoration of the Immigrant migration has now become a single holiday -- and how appropriate that is !! The massive immigrant influx of the late 19 century was primarily a new supply of workers for the unending appetite of capitalism. Cheap Labor. Europe had become a dead end -- wars, a class and land system that allowed no upward mobility and less and less opportunity for their children to learn or be somebody. My own Swedish great grandparents came over as indentured workers--having to pay for their passage by the sweat of their (yes, women too) brows doing farm labor for two years. This is a story that had been repeated through all the waves of immigrants -- Italian, Greek, Slavic, Eastern European, Asian (Chinese, Filipino), Caribbean and now Latin American and African. What has shifted is the structure that now has the United States as the Great Imperialist, first ravaging their homes militarily and economically and then casting large numbers of newly created displaced people adrift on the economic seas. As one Jamaican friend and immigrant once said to me "Why shouldn't we come here? You have everything stolen from us !!"
Cindy Sheehan issues her May Day call, Noam Chomsky writes about it here and Jerry Elmer (Dissident Voice) explores the history of the day here.
The US hasn't left Iraq though US President Barack Obama claims otherwise.  Today he made  a speech on Afghanistan that was supposed to be a triumph because he was in Afghanistan (click here for PRI's report from The World) but a triumph doesn't include sneaking into a country like a thief in the night.  Emma Graham-Harrison and Paul Harris (Guardian) report:
Addressing the viewing public back home, and opening himself up to Republican criticisms of electioneering, Obama said that America's war aims of destroying al-Qaida in Afghanistan were nearly achieved. "The goal that I set – to defeat al-Qaida and deny it a base to rebuild – is now within reach," he said from Bagram airbase near the country's capital Kabul.
Framing more than a decade of conflict as being in its final stages, Obama added: "We can see the light of a new day on the horizon … This time of war began in Afghanistan and this is where it will end. With faith in each other and eyes fixed on the future."
Wrong.  The US military may kind-of leave another country that they never should have been sent to.  There is no victory to claim only the proof that illegal wars bring shame on all involved.  There will be no real withdrawal, there will be no real control for the Afghans of their own country.   Barack will spin and lie and try to pretend honor's been brought to America but shame can never be disguised as honor -- no matter how you spin it. Gary Younge (Guardian) observes:
This week, the White House will celebrate the anniversary of the assassination of Osama bin Laden as though it were the crowning achievement of its foreign policy. On Wednesday, Obama will hold a rare televised interview in the situation room to discuss the raid in Abbottabad. His campaign has released of a web video in which Bill Clinton says President Obama "took the harder and the more honorable path, and the one that produced, in my opinion, the best result". The video then asks, "Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?"
The man who entered the White House with the message of "hope" and "change" wants to hold on to it with a record of "shoot to kill".
bin Laden's death actually hurt the United States in ways that few ever want to talk about.  Are we a nation of laws?  Then we conduct ourselves as such.  Barack Obama acted like the lawless Al Capone when he sent forces in to kill bin Laden (and terrorize family members).  The same forces could have captured him and he could have been put on trial.  That is what you do in a nation of laws.  (This is not a slam on those who were given the mission.  They followed the orders they were given and executed them remarkably well.  This is a slam on the orders Barack gave.)  As the US gets further and further from democracy, as rule of law means less and less, Barack wants to crow about an 'achievement' that was nothing but spitting on law and liberty.  That's not to be applauded.  If you think someone is guilty -- and, clearly, millions around the world believed bin Laden was guilty -- you put them before a court.  The US once prided itself on being about the rule of law (that may have been an illusion, others can debate that) but under Barack Obama, what's been exposed is that Bully Boy Bush and those eight awful years weren't an errant strain but instead the emerging character of the United States government.  That's not a democracy.  And it's nothing to take pride in.  May Day is today but US democracy is crying "Mayday! Mayday!"  It's sending a distress signal -- one that few want to hear.