Monday, July 16, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, oil remains a source of squabble, the UN expresses concern over Iraqi children, John Chilcot's Iraq Inquiry (again) begs for more time, the political crisis continues, and more.
Yesterday, Nick Hopkins (Guardian) reported, "Speaking for the first time about her experiences, Emma Sky also questioned why no officials on either side of the Atlantic have been held to account for the failures in planning before the invasion." Who? Sky was a Spring 2011 Resident Fellow at Harvard and from their bio on her:
Emma Skyleft Iraq in September 2010, where she had served for three years as Political Advisor to General Odierno, the US General commanding all US forces in Iraq, had worked directly for General Petraeus on reconciliation and had been the Governorate Coordinator of Kirkuk for the Coalition Provisional Authority back in 2003/2004. In the intervening years, Sky had served in Jerusalem as Political Advisor to General Ward, the US Security Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process; and as Advisor to the Italian and British Commanding Generals of the NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2006.
As a British, female, civilian, with a background in international development and strong anti-war credentials, it seemed unlikely that Sky would become advisor and confidante to some of America's finest military leaders. And certainly it has been quite a journey for someone who did not support either the Iraq war or the Afghanistan war.
Nick Hopkins has the first series of extensive interviews with Sky. From the first one, we'll note Sky saying this:
We'd have power point presentations with pictures of men who've had half their brains blown out. Some things you never forget … the smell of burning bodies. I didn't want to learn to cope with these images. The military talk about KIAs (killed in action). That's how they cope. They don't say, the victims were women and children. There was so much violence that it was almost too big to comprehend. The military has a language that is not accidental, it is used to quarantine emotion. Everyday we would hear reports that another 60 or 70 bodies had turned up, heads chopped off or drilled through. It was absolutely horrific. We could tell which groups had been behind the attacks by the way the victims had been killed.
The oil corporations wanted to wait until there was a permanent government in Iraq so they could have secure contracts. The first permanent post Sudan government was formed in May 2006 under Nouri al-Maliki, and in the months -- even the months before that -- the U.S., Britain, the International Monetary Fund were saying your first priority has to be pass an oil law to give multinationals leading role in Iraq's oil industry again for the first time since the nationalization of the 1970s. And then, this oil law was drafted very quickly after the government was formed. It was drafted in couple of months by August 2006. As well as putting multinationals in the driving seat, its other role was to deprive their contracts of parliamentary scrutiny. According to existing Iraqi law, if the government signs a contract with a company like BP or Exxon to develop an oil field, it has to show it to parliament to get the yes or no or amendments. One of the major functions of the oil law was to repeal that existing legislation and so allow the executive branch, which was of course populated by U.S. allies, to sign contracts without Parliament getting in the way. So, this was the function of the oil law, it was drafted by August 2006. The U.S. hoped it would pass very quickly without anyone knowing about it because the vast majority of Iraqis are very keen that oil stays in the Iraqi hands in the public sector. It didn't turn out that way.
In October 2006, two months after it was drafted, the draft started to leak out. In December 2006, I attended a meeting of Iraq's trade unions at which they decided they were going to fight the law. During the course of 2007, this became a central struggle over Iraq's oil. As you remember, Amy, in January 2007, President Bush announced a surge; he was sending an extra troops into Iraq. Actually that was on half of a two part strategy. The troops were sent to achieve control over Iraq. The second part of the strategy was to use that control, use that influence, to pressure Iraqi politicians to achieve what they call benchmarks. These were marker of political progress. As you reported at the time, the foremost among these was getting an oil law passed. So, throughout 2007, there is constant pressure from the Bush administration on Iraqi politicians. But, at the same time, the trade unions were organizing to try and stop this oil law because they thought it was going to be a disaster for the country. That campaign spread, and because of the strength of Iraqi feeling about it, over the subsequent months, the more it was talked about, the more people opposed it and then the more it was talked about, and opposition to the oil law spread across the country. Civil society groups, both secular and religious, was talked-about in Friday sermons in mosques. And by the summer, this opposition spread into the Iraqi parliament and it became -- politicians saw it as a political threat to their futures to support the oil law, and an opportunity to get one up on their rivals by joining this popular cause. The Americans had set a deadline of September 2007 to pass the oil law or face a series of consequences; cutting off aid, removing military support to the Maliki government etc. The September deadline came and the oil law wasn't passed, and the reason the oil law was not passed was because of this grassroots civil society campaign. Now, to me, that is a very inspiring story. It's why I feel hopeful about the future of Iraq. That operating in the most difficult circumstances imaginable, civil society was able to stop the U.S.A. of achieving its number one objective.
FYI, that's one interpretation and you can determine it's validity for yourself. I would pick apart several minor points, but overall would agree with the above. With the above. A few weeks back, Muttitt wrote a piece of nonsense after Brett McGurk was no longer a nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq. He wanted to dismiss the affair with a journalist. What Gina Chon did means she should never report again. But it was just as wrong for McGurk. What he did was in violation of US policies. And he knew it which is why he hid it from Ryan Crocker -- as he admitted in an e-mail to Chon that was published. For a reporter to sleep with a source is bad enough. For her to then allow him to vet her copy is even worse. By the same token, public servants aren't supposed to be secretly influencing their press. But that's what McGurk did.
If he'd had an affair with a nurse, doctor, diplomat, etc., that would have been different. The backpedeling on the Chon-McGurk scandal has really been something to see. And it's going to be a scandal years from now. Lot of 'last reporters standing' types are going to continue to churn out their cut and paste 'books' and, within five years, they'll have to include Chon-McGurk. It's too big of an ethics story to ignore. And when they do, let's hope that their book tours find many, many people asking, "Why didn't you weigh in in real time?" And let's hope the answer of "I was carrying water for the administration" is greeted with the proper boos it deserves.
In that idiotic post that Muttitt wrote, he also wanted to say the 'surge' was bad but the 'surge' was good. Granted, he insisted it wasn't noble but he went with the tired myth that the "surge" "created the conditions for sectarian bloodshed to subside." If you mean the increase in the number of US troops on the ground in Iraq allowed those Iraqis targeted who couldn't flee to be hemmed in and hunted, absolutely. But I don't think that's what he means. Ethnic cleansing took place. If you're on the left and you can't push that fact foward, then you need to hop on over to the right because you're not helping anyone on the topic of Iraq. The "civil war" (ethnic cleansing) killed an unknown number -- still unknown -- and also forced the mass fleeing that created the biggest refugee crisis in the MidEast since 1948.
Equally true, Muttitt's history ignores the Democrats and the Democrats are very much a part of the benchmarks. In real time, here, we repeatedly pushed back at the lie that these were Democratic benchmarks. They were the White House's benchmarks. But the Democrats wanted some form of benchmarks. Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray (Washington Post, May 3, 2007) reported, "House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) indicated that the next bill will include benchmarks for Iraq -- such as passing a law to share oil revenue, quelling religious violence and disarming sectarian militias -- to keep its government on course. Failure to meet benchmarks could cost Baghdad billions of dollars in nonmilitary aid, and the administration would be required to report to Congress every 30 days on the military and political situation in Iraq."
Iraq may be of the richest oil regions in the world but all that excess oil has not translated into fewer squabbles than in other regions. Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports that Nouri al-Maliki's Baghdad-based government is thundering to the Turkish government about a deal that they made with the KRG to export "crude oil and gas to Turkey." Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh insists that the deal "is illegal and illegitimate" when, in fact, it's not. It could be.
Those benchmarks we were talking about -- Nouri agreed to pass an oil and gas law. He never did. And while the one the US wanted was awful for Iraq, nothing prevented him from proposing something different but he never did. And what's he proposing now? Saturday, Al Mada reported more on the Thursday night meeting between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. Nouri asked that several bills introduced in previous sessions -- included the oil & gas draft -- be considered this session and Osama agreed. So Nouri's still pushing that law -- one the Parliament doesn't want or hasn't thus far. He could push something different but he chooses not to.
Without a national oil and gas law, there's nothing preventing the KRG from making deals on the oil in their semi-autonomous region. Maybe if Nouri had gotten off his lazy ass and did what he was supposed to in 2007, he'd have a valid complaint today. All the lethargic tend to do is complain -- at that Nouri excels.
Raheem Salman, Sylvia Westall and Stephen Powell (Reuters) add that Ali al-Dabbagh threatened that the deal could harm Baghdad's relationship with Ankara. And all along, we all thought the biggest harm to the relationship between Baghdad and Anakra was Nouri's big mouth. KUNA reports the response from Turkey's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Selcuk Unal, "The conflict is between the government in Baghdad and the Kurdish administration and Turkey has no role in it."
The Journal of Turkish Weekly quotes an unnamed Turkish official stating, "If there was a legal problem, we would not start exporting." The journal notes that the back-and-forth is "the latest sign of cooling ties between Ankara and Baghdad, as well as between Baghdad and Arbil." The Journal of Turkish Weekly also notes, "Turkey said on July 13 that it had begun importing 5 to 10 road tankers of crude oil a day from the northern region of Iraq and the volume could rise to 100-200 tankers per day."
There's still no heads to the security ministries. Nouri's failed to nominate them. He was supposed to have done that by the end of 2010. 2012 is over half-way over and still no heads to the security ministries. In the most recent development on that front, Al Mada notes whispers that Nouri's State of Law is stating that if members of Iraqiya want to be nominated to the security ministries then they need to withdraw from Iraqiya first. As violence has increased, Nouri's done nothing.
Last year, Iraqis took to the streets with a number of demands. They wanted better security. They also wanted their family and friends who were disappearing into the Iraqi 'legal' system to be treated fairly, to have their day in court and to be released when there was no reason to hold them. Al Mada reports that Iraqiya is calling on Nouri to follow the law with regards to prisoners, especially those facing execution, and noting that hundreds of innocent people remain in Iraqi prisons waiting years for trials that are repeatedly delayed. They note that last September Amnesty International estimated there were at least 30,000 Iraqis in prisons still waiting for a trial.
The protesters had several demands. They wanted the basic utilities fixed and improved -- potable water, dependable electricity. That hasn't happened either. As that demand continues to be ignored, Al Mada reports that women suffer more from the power outages than do men in Iraq and among the reasons they cite is that women are more often responsible for the household chores and those are chores that have to be done whether there's eletricity or not while Iraqi men can leave the home and, in addition to cleaning and laundry, women are also most often responsible for preparing meals and the power outages also effect the ability to store and keep food as well as the appliances themselves. Meals during power outages, the paper notes, are often meals in which an electric oven, blender, other electrical appliane or refrigerator cannot be utilized.
Last Thursday, Nouri met with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. Bit by bit, details leak out. Al Rafidayn reports that State of Law's Yasin Majid states that the two men did not discuss the proposed no-confidence vote on Nouri during their meeting, that they only discussed draft laws. All Iraq News reports that yesterday the PUK began working with the KDP and Goran (PUK and KDP are the two major political parties in the KRG; KRG President Massoud Barazani belongs to the KDP and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani belongs to the PUK; Goran -- also known as "Change" -- is a struggling third party) to discuss the no-confidence vote. Alsumaria notes that National Alliance leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari visited Nujaifi's today and they discussed the never-ending political crisis with both sides agreeing that any solution must be Constitutional.
None of the issues that led Iraqis to take to the street last year have been addressed -- despite Nouri swearing, as February ended, that if the Iraqi people would just give him 100 days, he would fix things. He didn't fix a damn thing. So is it any surprise that Alsumaria reports residents of Kirkuk took to the streets yesterday to protest?
The people were protesting the imprisonments that Baghdad oversees in most of Iraq and that Erbil oversees in the KRG. For those who have forgotten -- not hard to do since the US press misreported it -- this was what sparked the protests in Iraq. It had nothing to do with the Arab Spring in other countries. The US press ignored the Iraq protests until they could pretend it was 'sparked' by the Arab Spring. So a new wave of protests could be coming to Iraq.
Al Rafidayn reports that Nouri met with US Central Command General James Mattis on Sunday. Why? To ask the US to speed upt he delivery of weapons. All Iraq News also covers the meeting and includes a photo of the two. AFP adds, "The Iraqi premier also pointedly said during a meeting with General James Mattis, the visiting head of US Central Command, that only the central government would decide which arms purchases would be made, in an apparent swipe at Kurdish complaints over the acquisition of F-16 warplanes." Defense World adds, "Iraq has agreed to acquire American military equipment worth more than $10 billion, including 36 F-16 warplanes, tanks, artillery, helicopters and patrol boats which are not delivered for years to the Iraq."
Turning to the US, Karen Jeffrey (Capecodoline) reports last week Iraq War veteran Vincent Mannion-Broudeur and his family were invited onstage at rock legend Stevie Nicks' concert and she dedicated "Soldier's Angel" to him "and all wounded warriors."
I am a soldier's memory
As I write down these words
I try to write their stories
And explain them to the world
I float through the halls of the hospitals
I am a soldier's nurse
I keep the tears inside
And put them down in verse
-- "Soldier's Angel," written by Stevie Nicks, from her new album In Your Dreams
The two had met in 2007 when Stevie was on one of her regular visits to Walter Reed where she usually sits and talks to as many veterans as she can and also drops off iPods for them. Stevie's on tour promoting her latest hit album and, as Kat noted Friday, then Stevie grabs some ribbons and some bows and gets back out on the road next year with her bandmates in Fleetwood Mac.
Onto radio, Smiley and West -- Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West's weekly PRI radio program -- featured Rosanne Barr. Early in the show, they played a clip from an episode of the classic TV show Roseanne.
Mike Summers: Hi, I'm Mike Summers, your state representative. How ya doing?
Mike Summers: Good. I'm going door-to-door trying to get to know my constituents
Roseanne: Oh. Door-to-door, huh? That takes a lot of time. Why don't you just go down to the unemployment office and see everybody at once.
Mike Summers: I hear you. And you're right. We can't let this area's work force lay idle. That's why bringing in new business is my number one priority.
Mike Summers: Through tax incentives. See, we're going to make it cheaper for out-of-state businesses to set up shop right here in Landford.
Roseanne: So they get a tax break?
Mike Summers: Yeah, that's why they come here.
Roseanne: Well who's going to pay the taxes that they ain't paying?
Mike Summers: Well -- you-you will. But you'll be working. Good, steady employment.
Roseanne: Union wages?
Mike Summers: Well now part of the reason these companies are finding it so expensive to operate in other locations --
Roseanne: So they're going to dump the union so they can come here and hire us at scab wages and then, for that privilage, we get to pay their taxes.
Mike Summers: Is your husband home?
That's from season four's "Aliens" episode written by Roseanne, Jeff Abugov, Joel Madison and Ron Nelson with a credit handed out to Matt Williams for doing nothing but trying to look pretty (he failed) while he stood around. Mike Summers was played by Mark Blum. Click here for the clip at YouTube.
Tavis Smiley: So given your understanding of how dysfunctional the process is, what even interests you -- or interested you -- to even want to put yourself on the ballot?
Roseanne Barr: I wanted to see if it was possible, you know? I wanted to see what it would be like to be the spokesperson for an idea -- to encourage people that maybe this time they didn't have to vote for the lesser of two evils, that maybe this time they would hear their highest ideals voiced by a candidate who they could vote for.
Tavis Smiley: Mmm-hmm.
Roseanne Barr: And I just wanted to, my experiment was how would that turn out? Like watching how the money interests in this country -- specifically Citizens United and all the other things that -- since Reagan -- have sold our country and its people down the tubes and packed its bag and moved to another country with the jobs and the public money in their pocket too.
Tavis Smiley: Does this seem in some ways like deja vu for you? Talking about the sitcom and what it was about and when it aired? Does this moment in American history have a deja vu moment for you?
Roseanne Barr: It does in so many ways because in so many ways it's sad because, oh, I tried so hard. I tried to tell people what was coming. Of course, I was rewarded handsomely. But, of course, like a lot of professional athletes who get like contracts for 20 million to play a sport and that looks like a lot of money 'till you look at what the owners are taking down. So I did become rich but I didn't become anywhere near as rich as the people I was working for who made billions when I made a few millions and did all the work. So I tried to tell people, I put myself on the line every week on that show and my whole life and everything to let the American people know what was coming that they were being marginalized by their own government and robbed. And, you know, here it is and it's just like now when I watch my show, it's even more relevant now then it was then because it's all happening and everybody sees it now. It's not a big secret. And it's not just a small group of people who know, now everybody knows.
Roseanne will not be the Green Party presidential nominee. But she's not out of the race according to her Twitter feed this election which includes:
I like Roseanne. Ann, Ava and I wrote "Roseanne: The Green Party's greatest gift in 2012" for Third yesterday. There are e-mails to the public account assuming that because I know and like her I will be voting for her if she sticks to her independent run. And that I plan to do that without ever announcing it until the last minute. In other words, this argument says I'm full of s**t.
I'm sure I am full of it for many reasons. But that's not one of them.
But while I applaud Roseanne for many things and think she could accomplish a great deal in an independent run (including making the Green Party stand up), I wouldn't vote for her for president.
Go back to the Tavis Smiley and Cornel West interview. There's no logic there or straight thinking -- only fear.
Roseanne 'dislikes' Mormons. I'm not tossing out anything that's not well known -- read her first book and her second book if this is news to you. Her remarks about Mitt Romeny are fear-based. I love Roseanne but I don't trust her because she's governed by a lifetime of fear with regards to Mormons and that's why she's making crazy statements about how if Mitt wins the White House in 2012 that could be the last election.
To which I say, Roseanne, put down the bong and let go of your childhood. Truly, America has enough fears without you adding baseless ones to them.
In Roseanne's 'logic,' Mitt is buying the 2012 election. And what, Roseanne? He doesn't have the money to buy it twice? He's going to buy it once and then outlaw voting? That's not going to happen. That's insanity and the fears of a little non-Mormon girl growing up scared and frightened in Utah. I don't have a high tolerance for those who try to instill fear. You try to scare me and I'm going to yawn and be ticked off at you for thinking you could force me into doing what you want me to do by scaring me.
That doesn't mean she needs to drop out or if she expands her independent campaign (Green Tea Party) beyond Twitter, we won't cover it. Of course we will. I hope she expands into a full -- offline -- run for the office. But it does mean I'm not voting for her. So, no, I will not be voting for Roseanne. I think she's a wonderful comedian, a great actress, a lively author but I think she's still too governed by fear to lead. And I refuse to be.
And that, cleaned up, is the sort of response the Jill Stein campaign needs to have to Roseanne. The Stein campaign needs to be saying things like, "We refuse to live in fear, we refuse to be governed by fear."
Monica Hesse (Washington Post) reports on the Green Party convention and wrongly notes that Roseanne was in Hawaii. She taped the interview with Tavis in New York City. She taped that mid-week, last week. If she was in Hawaii on Saturday, it was because she choce to fly out there. Her being in Hawaii was not an excuse for her to skip out on the convention. She announced Wednesday (see "Roseanne Barr's sour grapes" and "Stein's choice is Honkala") that she would not be attending the convention. The best part of Hesse's article is probably this: "While the rest of America either pits Romney as a corporate robot or Obama as a socialist maniac, the people at this convention see them both as the same thing: bad Romney is like the school bully, says Ben Manski, Stein's campaign chief, but Obama is like the guy who says he'll help you fight the bully, then doesn't show up. The Greens have had enough."
In accepting the vice presidential nomination on Saturday, Cheri Honkala declared, "I stand here today as a formerly homeless mother, a single mother of two children, Mark [Webber] and Guillermo Santos." [Disclosure C.I. loosely knows Mark Webber and finds him impressive. C.I. also knows Roseanne and finds her "inspiring and insightful."] That's an interesting story. It's one that goes to her experience and her qualifications. She continued, "Something just didn't seem right to me, especially that day when I had to tell my nine-year-old son Mark that we were no longer going to be living in an apartment. Instead, we would have to move in to our car. But on a cold winter night in Minnesota, I lost my home the car when I parked my car and a drunk driver hit and totaled it. Unable to find shelter in the dead of the winter in Minnesota, I faced an important decision: Occupy a heated, abandoned house or risk freezing to death on the streets of America."
Ian Wilder (On The Wilderside) noted Sunday, "After spending the whole year exclusively convering only the two corporate party candidates. Democracy Now! breaks away [Friday] to give a third party candidate some coverage. Unfortunately, this is the same timing chosen by the corporate media such as the New York Times because it is the Green Party Presidential convention. Please let Democracy Now! know that you expect them to live up to their name and give equal time to third party candidates throughout the remainder of the presidential race. Democracy Now! is supposed to be the War and Peace Report, they should give equal time to peace candidates such as Jill Stein that they give to war candidates such as Obama and Romney." I think Ian Wilder is 100% correct and if you care about the Green Party, a level playing field, basic fairness, independent media making a point to cover independents or any combination, you should support Ian's call.
We'll note Stein's campaign again this week. If Roseanne goes beyond Twitter, we'll note her campaign. I have no plans to vote. The fear tactics* have wiped me out and killed my interest. (*Fear tactics include the Democrats misguided "War on Women." Yes, there is a War on Women. No, the Democratic Party's hands are not clean. And some of the same women who stabbed Hillary in the back in 2008 are kidding themselves if they think most women are going to take them seriously in 2012 as suddenly now they're concerned about the way women are treated.) We will cover women who run for the presidency. Good to know that Jezebel will as well (click here for notable outlets that won't bother to cover women who run for the presidency). We'll close with this from the Michigan Green Party.
For Immediate Release
For more information contact John Anthony La Pietra, elections coordinator for Michigan:
(269)781-9478 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Michigan Makes Significant Showing At Green Party National Convention
Michigan Greens had a strong presence among the thirty-four states represented at the Green Party's national convention in Baltimore this past weekend. Michigan was represented not only by ten delegates and six proxy votes, but also with a featured speech to the delegates by activist Reverend Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor.
The Green Party of Michigan earned ballot access in 2000 with a successful petition campaign and has maintained access every year since. For the November election, Michigan voters have a choice of Green candidates on all levels of government throughout the state, including for President and Vice-President of the United States.
Dr. Jill Stein of Massachusetts, the officially nominated Green Party candidate for President, has promoted a "Green New Deal" - a series of policies designed to undo the damage done by the previous administrations' poor management of the country without the continuing downturn assured with either a Democratic or Republican president. Her running mate, Cheri Honkala of Pennsylvania, ran for sheriff of Philadelphia and campaigned against unjust foreclosures and evictions.
Dr. Stein has already toured Michigan twice, and raised enough in individual contributions here to help her become the first Green Party member to qualify for Federal matching funds. At the national convention, Michigan delegates gave Dr. Stein nine of their 16 votes, in proportion to the first-choice votes in the state party's straw poll tallied at the state convention.