This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:
Thursday, October 4, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq executes 6 more people, Jalal continues his listening tour, Barack Obama's campaign accuses Mitt Romney of wanting to go back into Iraq, Congress calls out the administration's refusal to follow the law (with regard to military purchases), tensions continue between Turkey and Iraq, and more.
Last night in Denver, the Democratic Party's presidential candidate Barack Obama debated the Republican Party's presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a corporate event that Jim Lehrer moderated. Shut out of the debates were prominent third party candidates Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson. Last night, during the debate, Democracy Now! expanded the debate (audio, video and text) by airing questions and the responses from Barack and Mitt and then allowing Jill Stein and the Justice Party's Rocky Anderson to respond and debate. Barack is, of course, President of the United States. Mitt is a former governor. Rocky is a former mayor. Jill is a medical doctor -- in other words, if you were in an emergency, you'd be smart to choose Dr. Jill Stein -- that might need to be a campaign button because the country isn't doing well. Amy Goodman noted that Gary Johnson was invited to her expanded debate but had turned down the offer. Here is a section of the expanding the debate coverage on jobs:
The same questions received real answers when the invitation list became more inclusive. Something to remember if you watch the rest of the debates on the corporate-sponsored, corporate-owned debates on the corporate networks and the semi-corporate PBS.
What most Americans saw last night was the debate between Barack and Mitt only. As Ava and I noted this morning, Governor Romney mopped the floor with President Obama -- the latter coming off petulant and bitchy. As if to prove our point, Barack began making comments about Big Bird today that were, yes, petulant and bitchy. The Los Angeles Times takes a reading of reporters and journalists (and Tom Hayden) and we'll note this from it, "Doyle McManus: Bottom line: Romney won. The question now is whether Romney can turn one good night into four good weeks." CNN and ORC International's poll found 67% of those watching the debate said Mitt won. Cindy Sheehan (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox) offers this analysis, "Blue Tie went first and went on a long rant on how his presidency has basically been a failure at this, but of course, blaiming (with some verity) the Red Tie that went before him. However, give Blue Tie another four years with failed policies and things will get better this time, he swears on a stack of holy Federal Reserve Notes. ("I really mean it this time, Baby"). Then Red Tie talked a lot about "middle income" people. Both Ties talked a lot about the "Middle Class." Well, the term "Middle Class" is a ruling class diversion from the fact that the USA has the widest (and growing wider) income disparity in the so-called industrial world. That's an inconvenient fact that the Scoundrels
don't want us to know, now isn't it?"
Let's note some other reactions to Barack's performance last night. Doug Henwood (Left Business Observer) shares:
First, Obama's personality. In an earlier life, I spent a lot of time studying the psychoanalytic literature on narcissism. It was all part of a study of canonical American poetry, where I thought that the imperial grandiosity of the American imaginary could be illuminated by examining its underlying narcissism. But all that is by way of saying I'm not using this term recklessly. I think there's a lot of the narcissist about Obama. There's something chilly and empty about him. Unlike Bill Clinton, he doesn't revel in human company. It makes him uncomfortable. He wants the rich and powerful to love him, but doesn't care about the masses (unless they're a remote but adoring crowd). Many people seem to bore him. It shows.
That's a text link, but if you'd like to hear Doug in audio form, he continues to host Behind The News which now broadcasts Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time on KPFA (click here for KPFA archive and here for the LBO archive -- which doesn't have the full show yet but will in a few days). Susan (On the Edge) also notes Henwood and she shares this opinion of Barack's performance, "In my view, his performance last night is a reflection of how he deals with Republicans in Washington. He doesn't really fight when attacked; he folds like a lawn chair. The reason he does that isn't so much to appease them than it is he truly is one of them." Joshua Frank and Jeffrey St. Clair (CounterPunch) add, "It was clear Obama, ill-prepared and perhaps on a sedative himself, was not expecting much in the way of competition. Typically reserved and aloof in front of the bright lights and big cameras, Obama was cool to the point of frigidity. Lost without his teleprompter, Obama stumbled over his talking points on numerous occasions." At The Confluence, Riverdaughter notes:
The left blogosphere is all atwitter today and heading for the fainting couch because Mitt kicked Obama's ass last night. Did this meme come from the campaign-blogger meeting this morning? I'm guessing the last thing Obama's campaign wants is for blue collar women to show up at the polls. I mean, isn't what all of those "Romney is a bad dude who doesn't care about you" exercises have been about all summer and into the fall? The Obama campaign seems fairly desperate to suppress the blue collar womens' vote because those women want nothing more than…
… for someone to kick the s[**]t out of Obama.
And last night gave them hope.
That's what it's all about, isn't it? Those lady voters, and by this, oh best beloveds, he means the former Clintonistas who were royally screwed by Obama last time, they're too genteel for all the aggressive behavior that Mitt displayed last night? Oh, my, I think they might have the vapors. They're delicate, fragile flowers and unfit for such improprieties. It's not decent! We shall whip them into a frenzy of condemnation. We shall use their more civilized nature to reign Romney in. He won't be allowed to do that next time, nosiree.
A discussion of the debate took place on The Diane Rehm Show (NPR -- link is audio and transcript) with Diane and her guests USA Today's Susan Page, Washington Post's E.J. Dionne and National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru. Andrea Mitchell Reports (MSNBC -- link is video) has a discussion of the debate with Tad Devine and John Feehery. It would be really great if MSNBC could treat Andrea's show like a real one -- it is their strongest program -- she also had a segment with Ruth Marcus among others but lots of luck finding the video of that. For debate coverage in the community, refer to posts by Mike, Elaine, Marcia, Ruth, Betty, Stan and Cedric and Wally.
Last night's debate was about domestic issues.
Domestic issues include jobs. Domestic issues include national laws.
Was Jim Lehrer aware that the White House is in violation of the law -- violation of the law and practice that's been in place since 1941? Was Lehrer aware that the White House has allowed the US military to fill their orders with Chinese goods?
Yesterday the US House Veterans Affairs Committee and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a joint-hearing. Appearing before the Committees was the American Legion -- chiefly National Commander James Koutz. In addition to yesterday's snapshot, Ava covered it at Trina's site with "The VA never solves a problem," Wally covered it with "Today's veterans' hearing" at Rebecca's site and Kat explored it with "House-Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing." Wally's report included:
An issue that some may see as minor was brought up by US House Rep Michael Michaud. I don't see it as minor.
He reminded everyone of how there was uproar in the summer over the fact that the American athletes at the Olympics were wearing outfits that Americans didn't make.
Did you know our army wears uniforms that are not 100% American made?
And that brings us back to yesterday's hearing and we'll pick up with Michaud.
US House Rep Mike Michaud: When you talk about uniforms made in the USA, I read an article -- I left you a copy, I know you haven't had a chance to read it yet -- but I'm not the only person who's upset with what's happening with our military today. I was reading an article in the Air Force Times [by Jeff Schogol] where it says "Master sgt. says no to Chinese-made boots." He was issued a pair of Chinese-made boots. He made a stink about it. He ultimately did get American made boots. He was sent to Afghanistan. And over in Afghanistan, he was given a uniform -- the Army Operation Enduring Freedom camouflage uniform -- he asked for a pair of required boots, the tan boots. Well guess what? He was issued a pair of Chinese-made boots once again. In the article, you will see where the Master Sgt at the end, and I would like to quote it, what the Master Sgt said. And I quote, "This is about patriotism. This is about the Berry Amendment set forth over 60 years ago. This is about American soldiers wearing our country's uniform made by Americans." And I couldn't agree more with the Master Sgt. At a time when our nation is divided and the discourse in Washington, DC is extremely negative, it seems to me that with the outrage of our athletes wearing Chinese-made uniforms [at the summer Olympics] that this is one issue that we can all agree on. Even both candidates who are running for president of the United States are criticizing one another about not being tough on China and both campaigns are talking about making sure more things are stamped with "Made in the USA." Well there's a way we can get tough on China, increase things Made in the USA and to make sure that our American soldiers are not treated as second class citizens, that they have the best. That's what they're fighting for, this country, United States of America. And I find it extremely concerning because this issue is not an issue that needs Congress to act. It's not an issue that we need a regulatory agency to address. It's an issue that's already the law. So my question to you is: What is the American Legion's position? Do you believe that our soldiers who are putting their lives on the line each and every day for us, should they be wearing clothing made in the United States of America?
James Koutz: The answer is yes. The American Legion believes that [stops for applause to die down]. I'm sure the American Legion and the American people believe that all equipment should be made in the United States of America. And there you go again, talking about jobs. Put the Americans to work making boots. That'll provide jobs here at home.
US House Rep Mike Michaud: Well I want to thank you very much, National Commander, and just for the record, I know Congressman Duncan Hunter who is a Republican colleague from California, he and I are writing a letter, we encourage our colleagues to sign that letter, to the administration, requiring them to comply with the intent of the law and it's unfortunate that we have to do that. And hopefully, we'll see some changes in that regard.
When the discussion is jobs and when you're speaking to the Commander-in-Chief of the military and when the military is in violation of the Berry Amendment and Congress is calling that out, you probably need to bring that up in the debate. Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor) reports on how veterans and veterans groups feel they were ignored in the debate last night.
Today, there have been attempts to spin the debate. Matthew Boyle of the right-wing Daily Caller reports:
After President Barack Obama stumbled his way to a loss in the first presidential debate on Wednesday night, Democratic National Committee communications director Brad Woodhouse took to MSNBC to try to spin criticism back in the direction of Mitt Romney with what appeared to be a fabricated claim.
"He wants to go back to war in Iraq," Woodhouse said of Romney during a Thursday morning appearance on MSNBC.
In response, Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul told The Daily Caller that Woodhouse's statement wasn't true.
That would have been the perfect opportunity for Nuland to have credited Senator John Kerry. She's apparently quick to call him out but not willing to give him credit. (Kerry and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee making clear they were willing to pull US funds from Iraq forced Nouri al-Maliki to beging inspecting the planes headed for Iran.)
Tensions continue between the governments of Iraq and Turkey. Hurriyet Daily News notes, "Iraq's Cabinet has recommended Parliament abrogate treaties permitting foreign forces in the country as the Turkish government submitted a motion to extend cross-border operations against members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)." The Tehran Times quotes Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh stating that the Turkish warplanes and land efforts by the Turkish military "contradicts the principles of good neighborly relations." Namik Durukan (Al-Monitor) reminds that Tuesday "the Iraqi cabinet decided to annul all agreements that enabled the presence of foreign troops in Iraq. The decision will directly affect Turkey, which has been maintaining bases in Northern Iraq since the 1990s." Hurriyet adds:
A verbal agreement was formed between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds in 1995-1996, when massive joint military operations were launched by the Turkish army and Iraqi Kurdish groups against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), to allow Turkish forces to establish a presence in northern Iraq. On Oct. 2, the Iraqi Cabinet condemned the Turkish government's motion to extend cross-border operations against militants in northern Iraq. Iraq's Cabinet suggested that Parliament should abrogate treaties permitting foreign forces in the country, after the Turkish government submitted a motion to extend cross-border operations against the PKK.
Meanwhile, Alsumaria reports that today the Ministry of Justice announced the executions by hanging of another six people. This brings Iraq's reported total for 2012 to 102. Meanwhile the so-called Ministry of Human Rights insists it is not the time for Iraq to implement a moratorium on the death penalty despite international cries for just that. There are serious questions about Iraq's justice system including the right to a fair trail and the use of forced 'confessions.' Just the use of forced 'confessions' should be enough to make people support a moratorium.
As Human Rights Watch pointed out at the end of August:
Human Rights Watch has previously documented the prevalence of unfair trials and torture in detention, particularly in national security and terrorism-related cases.
"There is no doubt that Iraq still has a serious terrorism problem, but it also has a huge problem with torture and unfair trials," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The lack of transparency around these convictions and executions, in a country where confessions that may have been coerced are often the only evidence against a person, makes it crucial for Iraq to declare an immediate moratorium on all executions."
Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because it is unique in its cruelty and finality, and is plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error.
In 2011, there were 670 known executions. Of those, the Iraqi government was responsible for 68 of them. The country with the most known executions in 2011 was Iran which had 360.
Last July, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, noted the death penalty while addressing the UN Security Council:
UN Special Envoy Martin Kobler: Mr. President, Iraq retains the death penalty for a large number of crimes. I therefore reiterate the call by the Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] and the High Commissioner of Human Rights for the government of Iraq to establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to their abolition. I welcome that the authorities of the Kurdistan Region continue to implement a moratorium on carrying out executions which has been in place since 2007.
There's no moratorium on violence, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "A car bomb exploded near an Iraqi army convoy in Baghdad on Thursday morning , killing at least four people and wounding 11 others, police said." The Irish Examiner notes the death toll has risen to 5. Trend News Agency offers, "The attack occurred in the morning when a booby-trapped car went off near a convoy of sport utility vehicles (SUV) used by an Iraqi private security firm, in Baghdad's western district of Mansour, the source said on condition of anonymity." In addition, Alsumaria notes an armed attack in Tikrit claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier, 2 corpses discovered outside Tikrit (shot dead, both were Sahwa and they were brothers -- aka "Awakening," "Sons of Iraq"), 1 assailant/suspect shot dead at a checkpoint to the nort of Tikrit, and at least 22 arrested in mass arrests today.
Al Mada notes that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met with Hamid Majid and others heading a delegation of the Communist Party yesterday. The discussion was the ongoing political crisis and stalemate. It was part of Jalal's listening tour. All Iraq News notes that the Communist Party issued a statement after the meeting stressing their support for Talabani and his efforts. The meetings are ceremonial and can't serve any real purpose. It's not as though the 'stumbling block' isn't known: the Erbil Agreement. Nouri signed the US-brokered contract. It gave him a second term as prime minister after the voters decidedly did not. In exchange for the second term, he was supposed to provide certain things for the blocs. He used the contract to grab his second term and then refused to honor the contract. That is what created the current political stalemate. This is known and has been known for over a year now. There really isn't a need for a listening tour.
Jalal's a joke. Alsumaria has him saying that political parties need to be flexible. That's nonsense. Nouri didn't 'win' a second term as prime minister. He wasn't 'flexible.' He threw a tantrum and, with the White House supporting him, brought Iraq to an 8-month standstill (Political Stalemate I). And the White House didn't support the Constitution. The White House didn't support the Iraq people. The White House didn't support democracy.
Nouri wasn't 'flexible.' Now the blocs have to be flexible?
I believe they were 'flexible' when they surrendered to the Erbil Agreement giving Nouri a second term. No one asked the Iraqi people if they wanted their votes tossed aside.
That was 'flexible' enough. It's time for the Erbil Agreement to be honored. And since the White House staked the US government's word on that contract, it is past time for the White House to call for it's implementation.
Lastly on 'flexible,' let's remember that the White House tried to big-boy Jalal out of the presidency. They tried to give it to Ayad Allwai. Jalal wasn't 'flexible.' He blew them off. Maybe Jalal really doesn't have standing to ask others to be 'flexible'?
Jalal's not the only one meeting. All Iraq News notes that Ibrahim al-Jaafari (head of the National Alliance) and Ammar al-Hakim (head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) met today. For what reasons? Apparently to discuss facial tissues and tissue boxes -- check out the picture, I'm counting five tables (including the one with the lamp) and each one has a tissue box on it. Did Kleenex sponsor the meeting? All Iraq News also notes that al-Hakim held court in his office in the weekly cultural forum insisting that something must be done about the security situation and noting that last month saw the deaths of 365 people in Iraq with another 683 injured. This may make Ammar al-Hakim the only political figure in Iraq to note the death toll from last month. Dar Addustour notes that the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler issued a statement decrying the increased violence and calling on the government to address the root causes of the instability.