Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, August 7, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, two more oil companies sign with the KRG, Bagdhad continues to fume,  the PKK reportedly kidnaps Turkish soldiers,  Bonnie Faulkner and Frank Morales talk NDAA, Medea Benjamin and Matthew Rothschild talk drones, and more.
Matthew Rothschild:  Today I'm delighted to have back in the studio with me the co-founder of CODEPINK, Medea Benjamin who's got a crucially important new book out called Drone Warfare: Killing By Remote Control. Medea Benjamin, welcome back to Progressive Radio.
Medea Benjamin:  Thank you, Matt.  Nice to be here.
Matthew Rothschild:  You know, you've been what I'd like to call "a witness to empire."  "A Witness to US Empire."  You've gone to Iraq during the war.  You've gone to Afghanistan.  What's it like to be A Witness to US Empire?
Medea Benjamin: It's very sad because it's, uh, an empire that the rest of the world sees and that the American people don't so you feel kind of living in a surreal world when you come back to the US and realize the ignorance of the American people --
Matthew Rothschild:  Why don't we see it?
Medea Benjamin:  It's not talked about by our media.  Certainly not talked about by our elected officials except maybe [US House Rep] Ron Paul or  [US House Rep] Dennis Kucinich and we don't even have Dennis talking about it. It's kind of one of those dirty words.  You certainly don't use the word impearlism.  Sometimes, people like Ron Paul will use the word empire but it's kind of like, you know, just don't talk about that part of things and it's such a reality that effects every budget in this country, every part of our lives but people don't understand that we've got these hundreds and hundreds of bases around the world that we spend these billions of dollars on -- things that we don't want and we don't need and people don't want us to have and yet it goes on as if there's something inexorable about this.
Matthew Rothschild:  And to the extent that it's talked about except by you and a few others, you know, it's talked about as though it's a benign empire.  There is this whole group of academics who are saying the United States is [laughing] the first benign empire in the history of foreign policy or some such.
Medea Benjamin:  That's a very twisted definition of what benign means.
Twisted?  Like a fact checker who doesn't understand that facts are facts and either you do what you say or you don't?  Molly Moorhead writes for the creative Politifact and the two of them want to spin for Barack Obama: "In Iraq, he ended the war as he said he would, closely following the plan set out by his predecessor, President George W. Bush.  Obama even kept troops there longer than he pledged during his campaign."  Oh, Moorhead.  Oh, Moorhead.
PolitiFact, you can't keep a promise to end the war in 16 months and also follow Bush's plan.  PoliWhore, you can't keep your own campaign promise and "even kept troops there longer than he pledged during his campaign."   Do you get that?
Do you also get how offensive it is to Iraqis -- especially after they just saw July become the deadliest month in two years -- to say that Barack ended the war?  The Iraq War is not over and you really have to have your head up your ass to think that it is.
PolitiFact and Molly Moorhead, as they delve further, get a little more honest.
They quote Barack stating in October 2011, "Our troops will definitely be home for the holidays."  And that was a lie.  Even PolitiFact notes, "A small force of a few hundred Marines would remain to help train Iraqi forces, as well as a large diplomatic contingent."  And let's drop back to the June 19, 2012 snapshot, the day  the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released [PDF format warning] "The Gulf Security Architecture: Partnership With The Gulf Co-Operation Council" and where we quote from page 12 of that report:
Kuwait is especially keen to maintain a significant U.S. military presence. In fact, the Kuwaiti public perception of the United States is more positive than any other Gulf country, dating back to the U.S.-led liberation of Kuwait in 1991. Kuwait paid over $16 billion to compensate coalition efforts for costs incurred during Desert Shield and Desert Storm and $350 million for Operation Southern Watch. In 2004, the Bush Administration designated Kuwait a major non-NATO ally.
* U.S. Military Presence: A U.S.-Kuwaiti defense agreement signed in 1991 and extended in 2001 provides a framework that guards the legal rights of American troops and promotes military cooperation. When U.S. troops departed Iraq at the end of 2011, Kuwait welcomed a more enduring American footprint. Currently, there are approximately 15,000 U.S. forces in Kuwait, but the number is likely to decrease to 13,500. Kuwaiti bases such as Camp Arifjan, Ali Al Salem Air Field, and Camp Buehring offer the United States major staging hubs, training rages, and logistical support for regional operations. U.S. forces also operate Patriot missile batteries in Kuwait, which are vital to theater missile defense.
When U. S troops departed Iraq at the end of 2011, Kuawait welcomed a more enduring American ootprint.  Currently, there are approximately 15,000 U.S. forces in Kuwait, but the number is likely to decrease to 13,500.
When do those US troops come home, PolitiFact?  When do your crap-ass, faux fact checking acknowledge those?  Oh, that's right, never. 
Molly Moorhead and PolitiFact want you to know that, okay, yeah, it wasn't the campaign promise but Michael O'Hanlon is okay with it and he's left (centrist, right-leaning) and Jim Phillips is okay with it taking longer too and he's on the right, so, see it's okay that Barack really didn't stick to what he promised. 
A fact checker checks the fact.  A fact checker doesn't offer excuses.  Facts are facts.  You can pull 'em out and play with them all day and they're not going to change.  You can wrap you mouth around them and even swallow -- as the folks at PolitiFact are so prone to do -- but that doesn't change facts.  Apparently fact checking was an ambitious task for PolitiFact and they need someone to come in -- with flash cards -- and explain to them what facts are before they next attempt to fact check.
As ridiculous and shameless as PolitiFact is Nouri al-Maliki -- thug and prime minister of the ongoing occupation in Iraq.  Xinhua reports that thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki declared yesterday, "The battle with  terrorism has ended and the remaining are cells here and there looking for an opportunity or a gap." This despite the Islamic State of Iraq recorded threats released July 22nd. Since then an Iraqi military helicopter has been downed, a Taji prison has been attacked, a Baghdad counter-terrorism centre (which held a number of terrorists) have been attacked and July was the deadliest month in Iraq in two years.  In addition, Sunday saw an attempted breakout of the Abu Ghraib prison.  Of that attempt, Aseel Kami (China Daily) explains, " A spokesman for the justice ministry , Haider al-Saadi , said in a statement that 11 ' dangerous prisoners ' at Abu Ghraib dug down three meters and had tunneled along 20 meters using a frying pan and part of a ceiling fan before they were discovered . They had fashioned breathing apparatus from soft-drink cans stuck end to end . "

Nouri's claim comes as mass arrests continue in Iraq.  Ahlul Bayt News Agency reports that 13 have been arrested in Basra today.   And it comes, Al Rafidayn reports, as someone circulates rumors that Moqtada al-Sadr is attempting to re-arm the Madhi Army (Moqtada denies the rumors).  And if the terrorism is over, why is Dar Addustour reporting that Nouri has just transfered a large number of security forces from the southern provinces to Baghdad in order to beef up protection of the Green Zone?
The violence never ends or fades in Iraq.  Today Al Rafidayn reports a Babel Province house bombing claimed the life of 1 woman and left four of her children injured.  Alsumaria reports the corpse of one man was discovered (strangled and tortured) outside Kikuk, a Tikrit motor cycle bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four more injured, a Baquba roadside bombing injured two people, and an Iraqi miliarty aerial bombardment of a Salahuddin Province home early this morning has claimed the life of 1 female and left four of her family members injured -- all five were sleeping in the family garden.

Why were they sleeping outside?  Severe heat and lack of dependable electricity.  Alsumaria reports that the high in Baghdad for the next five day is expected to be 46 degrees Celsius which is 114.8 degrees Fahrenheit.  AFP speaks with Salahedding provincial council member Adel al-Sumaidai who explains it was his home and the woman who died was his sister.  He states that an Iraqi military helicopter fired a rocket.  AFP identifies the location for the motor cycle bombing as Baiji and they report 2 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in Baghdad, 2 government workers were shot dead in Baghdad (Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Agriculture), police Col Abdel Monam al-Juburi was shot dead in al-Qayara and 1 person was shot dead in Mosul.  Travis Brecher (Reuters -- link is video) reports 2 Hilla bombings have claimed the lives of 4 children with six more left injured.   AP drops back to Monday to note a Hilla mini-bus bombing which claimed 4 lives and left five more people injured.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count reports at least 70 people have died from violence in Iraq so far this month.

In the latest news on the Kurdish rebels and the Turkish military, Brussels News Agency reports that 3 Turkish soldiers were kidnapped last night by Kurdish rebels according to a Turkish governor, Mustafa Toprak, who states they were taken off a bus and kidnapped.   AFP adds that Toprak states "ground and air operations were under way to find the kidnapped soldiers."  "Kurdish rebels" in these stories usually means PKK.  Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk."

Chris Marsden (WSWS)  notes, "In the past fortnight, up to 115 Kurdish fighters have been killed in a south eastern Turkey in military operations, including air strikes near the town of Semdinli. Sunday saw a counter-offensive in which Kurdish forces raided three military posts near the Iraq border that left at least six soldiers and 14 rebels dead. Turkish officials claim to be combating a 200-strong force of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. Kurds make up 17 percent of Iraq's 31 million people, including the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, nine percent of Syria's 21 million population, and seven to ten percent of Iran's 75 million people."
Yesterday, a pipeline was bombed:
Reuters notes an overnight bombing targeting the oil pipeline between Iraq's Kirkuk and Turkey's Ceyhan has "knocked out flows and repairs are expected to take up to 10 days."  Platts adds, "The latest bombing comes as the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Province is gearing up to resume oil exports at a rate of 100,000 b/d. The KRG had said in a statement last week that it would start exports during the first week of August but there has been no word since on whether they have resumed or whether the latest development would force the resumption of exports to be postponed."
Reuters notes that the flow of oil is supposed to resume tomorrow with "a second line unaffected by" the bombing.  From yesterday's snapshot:
 KUNA reports, "Iraqi Vice Presidential Khudayr Al-Khuzai on Monday decried what he called flagrant intervention by Turkey in the domestic affairs of Iraq."  Last week, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited the KRG and, on Thursday, visited Kirkuk which outraged thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki who couldn't stop flapping his gums in yet another attempt by Nouri to show the world just how insane and unstable he is.
Today AFP reports, "Iraq is to 'review' relations with Turkey after Ankara's foreign minister visited the disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk without informing Baghdad, government spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh said on Tuesday." Press TV quotes Nouri's spokesperson stating, "The cabinet studied recent developments in Turkish-Iraqi relations and decided to review these relations in light of recent developments in a new cabinet meeting as soon as possible."  Anadolu Agency offers the Turkish government's take on the visit:
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal has said that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's visit to northern Iraq previous week was beneficial in terms of delivering messages to regional administration in north of Iraq on coping with terrorism.
Spokesman Unal answered the questions on "disislerinesorun" twitter account on Tuesday.
Relating to questions over Turkish FM Davutoglu's historic visit to northern Iraq a week before, "Mister Davutoglu's visit to Irbil and Kirkuk on August 1-2 was considerably beneficial in terms of delivering messages to the regional administration in north of Iraq on dealing with terrorism," said Unal.
Sure to make Baghdad even angrier is the news from AP that Korea National Oil Corp and Posco Engineering and Construction Ltd. have just signed contracts with the KRG.
Lot of people want to do business with the KRG.  That has to do with resources but it also has to do with reputation.  (You'd think reputation concerns would have led Nouri al-Maliki to tone it down already -- not so far.)   Matteo Fagotto (alpha magazine) reports:

This place is growing faster than Dubai. In four or five years Kurdistan will achieve what the Emirates did in 20. You will not be able to recognise it," says Cem Saffari. Looking down from the top floor of the 23-storey hotel where he works, overlooking a landscape dotted with construction cranes and new housing complexes, Saffari doesn't hide his pride and satisfaction when asked why he moved from a comfortable life in London to a job in Kurdistan, in the north-eastern region of Iraq. "It's a growing environment, which I like, and pioneers always win," he says. "There is a certain amount of risk in investing here, but we believe the turnover will be higher."
Saffari is the Turkish business development manager of the luxury Divan Hotel in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Open since May, the hotel is the Turkish group's first investment abroad. With 228 rooms priced from $500 (Dh1,836) to $15,000 a night, the hotel aims to host the growing number of business travellers willing to invest in a region that is experiencing one of the fastest rates of economic growth on earth.
While the world was dealing with the global economic crisis, Kurdistan registered 8 per cent growth last year, driven by the exploitation of its gas and oil reserves estimated at 45 billion barrels. The region's per-capita GDP, at around $6,000, is 50 per cent higher than in the rest of Iraq. Erbil is enjoying the lion's share of a boom that has caused land prices to skyrocket. Housing complexes are springing up in the empty outskirts of the city, and some cost more than $1 million each. Shopping malls dot the city's landscape and luxury brands like Porsche are finally coming in to town. The city's stock exchange is scheduled to open in the coming months, together with a new business tower and several major hotels.

The KRG was long ago dubbed "the other Iraq" by Western media early in the Iraq War.  Not only has violence been lower in the KRG than elsewhere in Iraq, its government has been more stable and demonstrated a desire to get along with and form ties with other surrounding countries while, in Baghdad, Nouri can't stop snarling one conspiracy theory after another about Saudi Arabia or Turkey or the UAE or Jordan or . . .  Hurriyet Daily News explains that the oil the KRG has is also part of the attraction:

With one-third of Iraq's high-quality oil reserves buried under northern Iraqi soil, northern Iraq's lucrative oilfields have driven both small and large oil companies to risk angering Iraq's central government by entering into deals with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Closer ties with Western companies and the possibility of exporting oil to further markets via Turkey are encouraging the KRG to operate even more independently of the central government.
The 45 billion barrels of proven reserves, according to BP's annual estimates, have enticed the world's largest oil players, including Exxon Mobile, Total, Chevron and Gazprom, to make deals with the KRG despite the clear risks emerging from the lingering dispute between the autonomous administration in Arbil and the central Baghdad government, which has objected to being bypassed by recent deals.

Peg Mackey and Andrew Callus (Reuters) add, "Executives say the move north by the big companies sends a message to Baghdad that its commercial terms on southern oilfield projects are unattractive, and that institutional chaos and the slow pace of postwar redevelopment are problems.
Turning to the United States where, as Matthew Rothschild and Medea Benjamin noted, too many important things are never discussed in most media.  Guns & Butter is a show that airs on KPFA.  Most of the time.  KPFA's been unable/unwilling to air the show since the middle of July (July 18th).  It's supposed to air tomorrow on KPFA (one p.m. PST).  The show has been airing Fridays on WBAI starting at nine a.m. as they've caught up on what they missed during their pledge drive.  Last Friday, WBAI broadcast the discussion with activist Priest Frank Morales about the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.  Excerpt.
Bonnie Faulkner: With regards to this 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that President Obama signed, did government agencies request this legislation?
Father Frank Morales:  No.  As a matter of fact, most -- well large sectors of the military, elements within the Pentagon, within the Congressional Committees that are devoted to facilitating the Pentagon largess financially, state adjutant generals who oversee the National Guard operations in each state, its so-called intelligence professional within the "intelligence" community, etc. opposed this detention provision in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.  I mean, obviously the American people and its representatives are not, at least publicly, agitating for being detained and doing away with habeas corpus -- namely the right to be accused in a court of law and shown the evidence of which you're accused and so forth.  So, no, it was not something that grew out of the call that would have been coming from governmental or military sectors.  [. . .]
Bonnie Faulkner:  Well right and the designation of a US citizen as an enemy combatant can simply be made by the White House, by who else?  I mean, every one is at risk, right, because that designation could be put on any of us.
Frank Morales:  Sure.  Practically speaking it may come down to a few folks in the White House who sit around with lists that are handed to them through various surveillance, Dept of Homeland Security, local CIA assets working within America, etc., etc.  who become targeted by this apparatus and done so in a legal way.  We have to remember that -- not to sound overly provocative -- but even during the Nazi period -- there's a great book called Hitler's Justice by Ingo Muller which talks about this -- the Nazis didn't come and just roll away the court system, push to negate it directly, they created a parrallel legal system.  So that, here in America, through the creation of military tribunals -- cause don't forget, these detained persons, would wind up in that particular venue -- and those structures created by Bush's executive orders and military orders back in 2002 and henceforth -- most recent 2009, the Obama people signed the Military Commissions Act which further consolidates this whole structure, legalizing if you will their whim after the fact.  Because that's the way power works. It doesn't play by the rules.  It creates rules and then sanctions them after the fact and that's what this military commission structure.  So that's -- that's the kind of thing we're looking at here with the NDAA.  So it's important that people not lose sight of the fact that [Judge] Katherine Forrest's decision is not the end of the road here.  We dodged a bullet, so to speak.  But it's very important that we now move pre-emptively as a movement throughout the country, in locales to de-legitamize and de-militarize our law enforcement.  And we can talk some more about that later.
Bonnie Faulkner:  Well, okay.  So then, for the moment, Judget Forrest's ruling stands --
Frank Morales:  Yes.
Bonnie Faulkner:  -- with regards to the NDAA and that American citizens, for the moment that is, cannot be picked up and held in indefinite detention with no charges, etc.  Now when we were talking about enemy combatants and that designation, that reminded me of that very famous New York Times article of a month or two ago about President Obama's Secret Kill List that he studies on 'Terror Tuesday.'  Every morning, he goes through an actual list of people supposedly in foreign countries but I suppose they could be anywhere -- American citizens for sure,  it's an assassinations list.  And that is how this American citizen in Yemen, [Anwar] al-Awlaki was actually assassinated by drones, right?
Frank Morales: Yeah, the Obama administration, as I said, the attempt by the administration to designate American citizens for detention without trial -- which is a naked violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution against unreasonable search and seizure and the guarantee of a trial --  we need to remember was preceded by this administration's "resolve" to assassinate at will Americans abroad and place them on a Kill List and eliminate them according to the New York Times, as you mentioned, secret kill list article on May 29th of this year.  The article in the New York Times speaks in terms of the president and his advisors having made it clear that they have the authority to "order the targeted killing of an American citizen in a country with which the United States was not at war, in secret and without the benefit of a trial."  Now the Justice Dept's Office of Legal Counsel rationalized such a move in a lengthy memo, justifying the extraordinary step, asserting that while the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of Due Process applied, it could be satisifed by internal deliberations in the Executive Branch.  Well according to what we've learned later, these internal deliberations allowed for Mr. Obama to give his approval and the cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was assassinated on September 2011 along with an associate, Samir Khan, an American citizen who is not even on the target list but happened to be traveling with Mr. al-Awlaki. 
It is an election year in the US, a presidential election year in fact.  Jill Stein is the Green Party's presidential candidate.  Her campaign released the following this week:
The lackluster jobs and unemployment numbers released Friday contain a warning for America that is being missed by a media obsessed with their impact on President Obama's election chances, according to Jill Stein, presidential nominee of the Green Party.
"Our economy is indeed floundering. It's not delivering for the American people. Mitt Romney is right on that. But we need to start a serious discussion that goes beyond whether this gives an edge to Mitt Romney in attacking the President. The sickness of our economy is directly attributable to misguided economic policies pursued by Republican George Bush and Democrat Barack Obama, who both consistently favored an economic system that is driving America into poverty."
"Romney doesn't have a single credible solution. He just urges blind faith in trickle down policies that have failed time after time. And President Obama's approach is to keep the whole failing system going toward an ultimate meltdown that we won't be able to fix. We are in serious trouble if we don't recognize that both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are leading us toward disaster."
Stein explained her economic approach as follows: "Unemployment is a cancer that is destroying communities and sapping the lifeblood of our economy. The urgency to deal with it just isn't there in Washington. Both Democrats and Republicans fire public employees and cancel government contracts. Then they endlessly wait for some rich person to create decent jobs. It's not just the delay that is disastrous. A lot of the money going to the wealthy investors is used to move jobs overseas or to automate factories to eliminate jobs. This trickle-down thinking has to end."

"In contrast, our Green New Deal uses direct job creation to end unemployment. We will create 25 millions jobs. We will give communities that are hardest hit by unemployment the green light to create the type of jobs they need in the quantities they need. Every unemployed person that we put back to work in this way will give a stimulus to the economy. The immediate result will be to end the Bush/Obama recession immediately and decisively."

"It concerns me that the Obama stimulus plans are not effectively targeted to the urban areas where rampant unemployment is undermining the health of communities and creating social decay that will take generations to repair. This is an emergency. Building bridges in suburbia is fine, but if we lose these communities we will be paying the price for decades. The Green New Deal goes directly to where unemployment is worst with enough new jobs to stop the bleeding. The Obama/Romney approach leaves the targeting of investments up to self-serving CEO's, and that is usually a disaster for our distressed communities."

"We also need to start talking about wages, a topic that you'll find in Green Party discussions but which is carefully avoided in the Obama/Romney dialogue. Americans deserve a pay raise. Worker productivity has risen, but the increased wealth thus created has gone into the pockets of the economic elite, and hasn't been reflected in increased wages. Younger workers are struggling under two-tier wage systems which amount to intergenerational discrimination. As the cost of living rises, Americans are being pushed out of the middle class."

"Obama broke his promise to raise the federal minimum wage. As a result, inflation has reduced the effective minimum wage by over 27%, which is a cruel burden on low income workers. I support an immediate increase of the minimum wage to $10/hour, which would just about make up for the pay cuts imposed by inflation. And I support movement toward a national living wage guarantee, so that the minimum wage becomes a wage on which everyone can earn a livelihood. It's time for a President who will stand with workers and with organized labor as they seek a fair share of the wealth that their work is creating. I will be such a President."
 Last week, Jill Stein was arrested as she took part in an anti-foreclosure rally.  Ian Wilder (On The Wilder Side) notes that Democracy Now! finally covered the arrest today.
Jill Stein is on one ticket that believes in peace and believes in the people.  Another such ticket is the Roseanne Barr - Cindy Sheehan ticketCindy had (as usual) some wise words to share recently.  Here's Cindy on voting:
There have been a few people who have been appalled by our candidacy thinking that we may "take votes away from Obama" and "cause Romney to win" and there are responses to that one:
Barack Obama does not own your vote.
If you care about peace, justice and economic equality, he has not earned your vote.
If Obama loses this November it's because he sucks and his presidency has been a failure for the 99% and a windfall for the 1%
Besides, historically, after the US has constantly bounced from Democrat-Republican-Democrat-Republican-Democrat, etc., haven't you kind of noticed already that it really doesn't matter very much who is president? 

It's the cyst-em of control that needs to be overthrown and socialist revolution can do that!

Barr/Sheehan 2012 have two very important people to thank: Cat Woods, a member of the PandFP who worked so hard to get all the ducks in a row and former Georgia Congresswoman and GPUSA presidential candidate, Cynthia McKinney, for keeping the dream of Roseanne for President alive.

Go to www.RoseanneforPresident2012.org for more information about the campaign.