Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, September 4, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, the Iraqi ministries undercount the dead, Cindy Sheehan announces she is no longer on the Peace and Freedom Party's presidential ticket, Jill Stein fights Google and Jill Stein wins, and more.
Starting with the US and the presidential race there.  A surprise announcement was made today when Cindy Sheehan issued a statement at her website.  Sheehan was Roseanne Barr's running mate on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket.  Due to health reasons, Cindy has stepped down and also due to personal reasons: "As to the personal reasons, Candidate Barr and I have irreconcilable differences on how best to serve the Peace and Freedom Party."  Cindy goes on to off her "hope that the Party/Campaign would take my suggestion to replace me with the worthy and talented Ms. Cynthia McKinney."  Former US House Rep Cynthia McKinney was the Green Party's presidential nominee in 2008.
I can't speak for Cindy Sheehan.  I can repeat what I noted last week which is one person was doing work and one person was Tweeting.  Cindy was the vice presidential candidate.  She was going to the media, being interviewed.  At her site, she and Jon Gold had upped the publishing so that new content was coming from the campaign.
And Roseanne was playing like the stereotype of a pajama blogger.  Roseanne being Roseanne was supposed to be a good thing.  She was supposed to bring extra attention to the race which is why the Peace and Freedom Party gave her the nomination -- they had people running for that nomination, Roseanne showed up at the last minute like a Bush trying to for admission for Harvard and grabbed the nomination.  That was fine because the Peace and Freedom Party is trying to build their party ("Because of changes in election law, Peace and Freedom must almost double its registration by the end of 2014 to stay on the ballot. By registering Peace and Freedom, you are joining with tens of thousands of others who want to take control of our political system away from the ruling capitalist class.") and a big name could help them do that by getting the word out.
But, as I noted Friday, right now there is movement do dump Roseanne by some members of the Peace and Freedom Party ("How would it feel to be the first presidential candidate whose own party publicly rebukes them?").
Cindy worked her ass off -- Cindy and Jon Gold both did.  And Roseanne Tweeted.
And Tweeted hateful Tweets that led to complaints from the Peace and Freedom Party which led Roseanne to say 'This is my personal Tweet feed and this is my campaign Tweet feed.'  Yeah, let's pretend like you can draw that line and run for public office.  Roseanne's ticket was the ticket to cover because it is so f**ked up.  I'm glad Cindy's off the ticket for that reason.  I'm sad she's off the ticket because she really using the platform in a way that spotlighted issues and that raised the profile of the Peace and Freedom Party. 
I like Roseanne as a person and as an artist but months ago I said I wouldn't vote for her and that's why: The crazy.  She's governed by fear and can't let go of the hate.  We've had more than enough fear and hate the White House.  In fact, we've had so much for so long that there are elements on the left that see the country in terms of Hatfields and McCoys.  (The right has seen it that way for some time.  I never thought we on the left would fall victim to that as well.)  And we want to demonize Republicans as a result of that view.
Republicans are your friends, your lovers, your co-workers.  They're not the enemy.  They may have different ideas and an exchange about those ideas might make both sides stronger but no exchange ever takes place when people demonize.  If there are politicians you do not care for, call them out in any tone you want.  But politicians don't necessarily represent the people -- if the Green Party or the Peace and Freedom Party honestly thought politicians represented the people, they wouldn't be working to build a political party, they'd just join one of the two dominant ones.
If 15 Republicans nationwide switched to the Peace and Freedom Party this cycle, the party would consider it a success and should.  They wouldn't say, "Ew, former Republicans?  We don't want them!"   But it's unlikely that they'll recruit from that group or many groups when Roseanne can't stop Tweeting hate which, yes, does include wishing cancer on people.  When you're crossing those lines as a comedian, you're in trouble.  When you're doing it as a political candidate, your campaign's dead. 
I don't think, my opinion, Cynthia McKinney could revive it.  If she were asked, I would hope she would say no.  What would be the point?  Cynthia's an elected politician who served in Congress.  She ran last cycle for president and knows the hard work involved.  So now she's going to join on to Roseanne's campaign and bust her ass -- but not so much that she steals attention -- to keep the campaign in the news?  How does that help Cynthia in any way?  It doesn't.
In Roseanne's art, she is caring and loving and embracing.  It's a shame she did not bring that side into her campaign.
As Roseanne's campaign falls apart (maybe this will allow her to rise from the ashes and be a better candidate, who knows), Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein announces a victory.  Google TV was refusing to show the Stein campaign's ad.  This was a violation of federal law.  This afternoon, the campaign updated their announcement to note that the "ad are now running on TV, cable, and satellite nationally.  Thanks for your support."
Robert Mackey (New York Times) reports that Google relented and notes that Ben Manski, Jill's campaign manager , states that the "ad was primarily intended to be shown on cable and satellite channels, like MSNBC and Comedy Central, which, like the Internet, are not subject to government regulation of objectionable language in the way that words and images broadcast over the airwaves still are."  The word in question was "bulls**t" -- according to Mackey, it was partially bleeped for the TV ad -- and you can stream the commercial -- unbleeped -- at the Times' report.
John Hockenberry:  So we've got a little time here and I want to do a couple of things.  First, I want to give you your chance to lay out your platform, if you can relatively briefly.  What is the Green Party's message in 2012?
Jill Stein:  The message is we need an economy that works for every day people -- not for the bankers who control not only the economy but certainly our political system as well.  So as the only political party that does not accept corporate money, we actually have the unique ability to reflect the urgent needs and desires of the American people.  And we are not bought and paid for, we can actually call for the real solutions that the American people are clamoring for.  And I would add to this that several polls recently have showed that between 50 and 60% of the American electorate is actually calling for a third party and saying they would seriously consider voting for one.  So why is it?  Number one, we're calling for jobs -- not simply tax breaks or corporate tax breaks or favors for the so-called job creators who are creating jobs in India and China.  We're calling for 25 million jobs here in this country through a Green New Deal.  We know how to do this.  It got us out of the Great Depression in the 1930s.  It can get us out of this Great Recession right now.  And we're calling for a Green version of this New Deal because it would also jump start the Green economy that could spell an end to climate change and make wars for oil obsolete.  That's number one.  Number two, health care as a human right.  Through Medicare for all -- basically simply extending the elegibility of Medicare to start at the moment of conception so that everybody is covered comprehensively.  It puts you back in charge of making your health care decisions, not a profiteering CEO and it saves us trillions of dollars.  A well kept secret: It doesn't cost us, it saves us because it eliminates the massive, wasteful health insurance bureaucracy.  Number three, tuition-free public, higher education.  We have a generation of students who are locked out of a future.  They are endentured servants under the current system.  Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are promising they will stay the course on student debt.  That's not what we need.  We've bailed out the bankers who caused this problem through waste, fraud and abuse on Wall Street.  We can bail out the students who've been the victim of that problem and provide free, public higher education that is tuition-free.  We know that it pays for itself.  We did this through the GI Bill after WWII.  We know for every dollar we tax payers invest, we get seven dollars back in benefits to the economy.
John Hockenberry:  Okay.  We're talking with Jill Stein, Green Party nominee for President of the United States.  Students are victims of the bank crisis because they're holders of this debt and their interest rate reflects some of the consequences of the financial crisis, is that what you're saying there?
Jill Stein: Well, it's not only the debt --  the sky rocketing of tuition so that state legislators have been able to provide big tax breaks to the wealthy.  The burden has fallen on the students because the public support for higher education isn't there --
John Hockenberry: Right.
Jill Stein: Add to that the unemployment crisis which falls hardest on their backs with 50% unemployment  and underemployment for students.  That really locks them into endentured servant status.
John Hockenberry: It was a miserable summer for college students, absolutely, as you point out, Dr. Jill Stein.  Alright, how come climate change is almost no part of the debate in 2012 between the Republicans and the Democrats where it seemed to be on both party platforms in 2008?
Jill Stein:  Yeah, well I think, you know, it's no secret our parties have been bought and paid for by Wall Street and multi-national corporate interests and, of course, oil, fossel fuel, nuclear -- nuclear power, etc., you know, all the dirty energy stands to benefit from staying the course.  So you see de-regulation of energy, the continuation of the current crisis which is not only causing drought, heat waves, the melting of the Artic and beyond, rising prices of food, fires, etc.  You know, we have a disaster that is really beginning to hit the American people.  The American people are calling for real solutions to climate change.  They are told, over and over, that it's a choice between your job or your climate and, in fact, that's not true at all.
It's a very lively segment and The Takeaway deserves credit for doing it -- not just the interview with Jill, the segment is also about political conventions, American voters and other issues with various people sounding off.
In Charlotte, North Carolina, the Demcorats have kiced off their national convention.  And on the subject of the implosion of Roseanne's campaign (a) it is news, (b) I'm glad we made time for the campaign (again, it was news), (c) Roseanne may pull herself out of her spiral, (d) if she doesn't that might make for an even more interesting story -- meaning no one ever had an excuse not to cover the Roseanne campaign.  They made excuses. They ignored her and they ignored Jill.  It's their loss.
On lively and sounding off,  Archbishop Desmond Tutu shook things up over the weekend.  As War Criminal Tony Blair banked more blood money by speaking Thursday in South Africa, he faced protests and also saw Archbishop Desmond Tutu bow out of the speaking engagement with his office stating the Archbishop could not share the stage with Blair due to his Iraq War actions.  Saturday, Tutu had a column on the matter which the Observer has published:

If leaders may lie, then who should tell the truth? Days before George W Bush and Tony Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq, I called the White House and spoke to Condoleezza Rice, who was then national security adviser, to urge that United Nations weapons inspectors be given more time to confirm or deny the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Should they be able to confirm finding such weapons, I argued, dismantling the threat would have the support of virtually the entire world. Ms Rice demurred, saying there was too much risk and the president would not postpone any longer.
On what grounds do we decide that Robert Mugabe should go the International Criminal Court, Tony Blair should join the international speakers' circuit, bin Laden should be assassinated, but Iraq should be invaded, not because it possesses weapons of mass destruction, as Mr Bush's chief supporter, Mr Blair, confessed last week, but in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein?
The cost of the decision to rid Iraq of its by-all-accounts despotic and murderous leader has been staggering, beginning in Iraq itself. Last year, an average of 6.5 people died there each day in suicide attacks and vehicle bombs, according to the Iraqi Body Count project. More than 110,000 Iraqis have died in the conflict since 2003 and millions have been displaced. By the end of last year, nearly 4,500 American soldiers had been killed and more than 32,000 wounded.
On these grounds alone, in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the Hague.

It quickly became the column read 'round the world.   Tom Foot (Independent) explains, "Archbishop Desmond Tutu today brands Tony Blair and George Bush war criminals and calls for both former leaders to be hauled before an international court.Adam Sich (ITN) added, "As for the call for Mr Blair and Mr Bush to face justice in The Hague, he said different standards appeared to be set for prosecuting African leaders than western ones, and that the death toll during and after the Iraq conflict was sufficient on its own for them to face action."  BBC quoted War Criminal Tony Blair insisting, ""I would also point out that despite the problems, Iraq today has an economy three times or more in size, with child mortality rate cut by a third of what it was. And with investment hugely increased in places like Basra."  Pakistan's The Nation covered it.   CNN covers the story and notes, "Tutu detailed some of the costs of the war. More than 110,000 Iraqis have died in the conflict, while millions have been displaced, he said. Close to 4,500 U.S. soldiers have been killed and more than 32,000 wounded, Tutu added." The Irish Times covers the story as well, "As for the call for Mr Blair and Mr Bush to face justice in The Hague, he said different standards appeared to be set for prosecuting African leaders than for western ones, and that the death toll during and after the Iraq conflict was sufficient on its own for them to face action. 'On these grounds, alone, in a consistent world, those responsible should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to
answer for their actions in The Hague'."  The Oman Observer carries an AFP report.  Thanks to Archbishop Tutu, two War Criminals are getting some of the long overdue condemnation they've had coming.  Today George Monbiot offered "We're one crucial step closer to seeing Tony Blair at The Hague" (Guardian):
When Desmond Tutu wrote that Tony Blair should be treading the path to The Hague, he de-normalised what Blair has done. Tutu broke the protocol of power – the implicit accord between those who flit from one grand meeting to another – and named his crime. I expect that Blair will never recover from it.
The offence is known by two names in international law: the
crime of aggression and a crime against peace. It is defined by the Nuremberg principles as the "planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression". This means a war fought for a purpose other than self-defence: in other words outwith articles 33 and 51 of the UN Charter.
That the invasion of Iraq falls into this category looks indisputable. Blair's cabinet ministers knew it, and told him so. His attorney general warned that there were just three ways in which it could be legally justified: "self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UN security council authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case." Blair tried and failed to obtain the third.
Saturday the month of September started.  Iraq Body Count tabulated 393 people dead in Iraq from violence for the month of August.  Meanwhile the official number from the Iraqi ministries is 164.  AFP noted their own count of 278 killed and 51 injured and that their figures for June, July and August demonstrate "the death toll nationwide has been almost unchanged."  Mohammed Tafeeq (CNN) noted CNN's count is 270 dead last month.  Like IBC, Antiwar.com keeps their own independent count based on media reports.  Margaret Griffis reports her outlet's count is 511 deaths for the month of August.  Like AFP, Antiwar.com's count shows no real variation (June was 544 and July was 545).
Violence didn't stop in August.  Today, Press TV reports that 2 bombings between Al-Adhaim and Tuz Khurmatu claimed the lives of 6 Iraqi soldiers with another two left injured.  AFP notes that 16-year-old Ali Mohammed Ali was discovered outside Kirkuk "his hands, feet and head cut off."   Alsumaria notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing has left a Peshmerga captain and two members injured today.  In adddition, Dar Addustour reports a Basra cafe frequented by Emo teens and young people was bombed.
The Iraq War hasn't ended -- even if the press interest in it has.  NPR's Scott Horsley won "Biggest Damn Liar Of The Week" on Sunday from Third for his 'report' on Weekend Edition Sunday in which he proclaimed, "There are no more US troops in Iraq."  At Third, we noted that last month,  RTT reported, "More than 225 U.S. troops, seven Defense Department civilians, 530 security assistance team members and more than 4,000 contracted personnel are currently in the office at the Iraqi government's invitation." We pointed to the December 13th, Talk of the Nation which noted all US troops would not be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. The guest was Ted Koppel and he noted the 157 who guard the US Embassy, the "few hundred U.S. military trainers."  (That's not counting contractors.)  And we noted that, as last week closed, Sean Rayment (Telegraph of London) was reporting:
More than 3,500 insurgents have been "taken off the streets of Baghdad" by the elite British force in a series of audacious "Black Ops" over the past two years.
It is understood that while the majority of the terrorists were captured, several hundred, who were mainly members of the organisation known as "al-Qa'eda in Iraq" have been killed by the SAS.
The SAS is part of a highly secretive unit called "Task Force Black" which also includes Delta Force, the US equivalent of the SAS.
Fars News Agnecy reports that Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, is stating that the situation in Iraq has improved and the country "is moving towards progress and development" making him Iraq's home grown Tony Blair -- a liar supreme, able to stand out even in a world of liars.

Al Mada reports today that the National Alliance is in disagreement with Article 140.  Article 140 takes its name from being the 140th article in Iraq's Constitution passed in 2005.  And it's law, not proposal, not bill, not a notion.  Law.  The Constitution was passed in 2005.  The US installed Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in the spring of 2006.  Article 140 was supposed to have been implemented by the end of 2007 per the Constitution.  Nouri refused to do so.

Kirkuk is disputed.  It is oil-rich and the Kurdistan Regional Government says they have a right to it and the Baghdad-based central government says they have a right to it.  That's what "disputed" means (we're going slow in case Chris Hill's joining us this morning -- at his 2009 confirmation hearing he showed indifference to and ignorance of the issue).  Article 140 calls for a census and a referendum.  And Article 140 has been repeatedly ignored.

In March 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections.  Nouri's State of Law came in second to Iraqiya which meant no second term for Nouri unless Iraaqiya imploded in the 30 day process of naming a Cabinet.  (When named prime minister-designate, you have 30 days to name a Cabinet.  If you don't succeed within 30 days, another prime minister-designate is supposed to be named.)  Nouri threw his fit and had the White House backing him.  This brought the government to a standstill for over 8 months (Political Stalemate I).  During this time, Nouri made spectacular promises in an attempt to sway people to his side.  He even (finally) scheduled a census for Kirkuk.

The US brokered a contract with the various political blocs.  It gave Nouri a second term in exchange for various concessions.  Among those was implementing Article 140.  This contract is called the Erbil Agreement.   The day after it was signed, Parliament held their first real session in over 8 months and Nouri was named prime minister-designate.  Nouri then trashed the Erbil Agreement and called off the the Kirkuk census that had been scheduled for the beginning of December.

Resolving the issue of the disputed territories is seen as very important and instead addressing it, it has been ignored and ignored and ignored.  That doesn't resolve anything and only breeds further tensions.

So now the National Alliance -- of which Ammar al-Hakim is a part -- wants to act as if Article 140 of the Constitution is optional?  And al-Hakim wants to pretend that things are better in Iraq?

This as Nawzad Mahmoud (Rudaw) reports, "Several Kurdish lawmakers in Baghdad believe that the situation is not yet ripe for negotiations between the Kurdistan Region and central government."  Speaking to various Kurdish MPs a portrait of a distracted Nouri quickly emerges:

Last week, the Non-Aligned Summit was held in Tehran where leaders discussed solutions to the current situation in Syria. During the summit, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki proposed an initiative to end Syria's violence.
"Maliki should have proposed an initiative to end Iraq's political turmoil instead," Abdullah said.
He added, "It's surprising that Maliki is busy finding a solution for Syria while his own country is in crisis."

In more political turmoil, All Iraq News reports that Ismail al-Jubouri has been arrested.  He is a member of the Diayala Provincial Council and is also a member of Iraqiya.  He's been arrested on charges of terrorism.  It would appear to be political especially when an uproar over the arrest forced the security forces to release al-Jubouri shortly after he was arrestedHe has stated he was arrested for political reasons including that he has announced he is running for governor of the province.  (August 18th, Governor Hashim Hayali died.)  Along with needing a new governor, Diyala's also facing another problem. 
All Iraq News reports people are setting fires to the many orchards in the province and farmers are demading the authorities do something.