Monday, October 8, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Joan Walsh can't stop lying about Mitt Romney's foreign policy speech, Nouri goes to Russia and gets tight, Iraq executes more people (even more), Turkey continues bombing northern Iraq, Senator Patty Murray and US House Rep Rick Larsen call attention to inequality in veterans health care, and more.
We have to start with Mitt Romney. Not because I want to but because we have to. Why do we have to? Because Joan Walsh has written another alarmist piece for Salon. Joan's not a smart woman. I don't know her personally and my contact with her in the past has been nothing more than dictating e-mails to be sent to her along the lines of, "Joan, please correct your error so I don't have to call you out online today." You'd think I wouldn't have to do that. Joan and I are both live in the Bay Area and you'd assume, for example, a supposed informed woman like Joan could write about our state elections and the Democratic candidates (Joan and I are both Democrats) without a mistake. Joan struggles with facts. Sadly, that includes on election day -- like in 2010 when she was yammering away about a male Democrat's great run for attorney general in our state race. For those who don't know, Kamal Harris was elected California Attorney General in 2010. Kamal was the Democratic candidate for that office and, yes, she is a woman. Was one at birth, was one during the campaign and, despite Joan's bad writing, Kamal was even a woman on election day. These are not minor mistakes and go far beyond carelessness. As a general rule, I avoid Joan in part because I'd be calling her out every day if I didn't but also because -- unless it's about the state we both live in -- what she writes is is so inconsequential. Like most, it's about what she saw on cable last night. She's an aspiring TV blogger. She can almost handle that. Almost.
But today Joan wanted to tackle big topics. Or was forced to pretend to have that desire because Mitt Romney gave a speech on foreign policy. So she took to Salon and to demonstrate that her liberal arts education was not wasted, immediately took to Tennessee William's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to grab "mendacity." She really doesn't seem to know what it is but she was exposed to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and damned if she's not going to shoe horn a multi-syllabic word in there somewhere.
Through insinuation, Joan Walsh attempts to paint Mitt Romney as craven (careful readers will grasp just how much autobiography went into Joan's writing today). She has to use insinuation because there's nothing that alarming in his speech. There's also nothing foreign policy in Joan's blog post (she repeats and she rails, she never has a framework other than "Mitt Bad, Vote Barack.") That's the problem with the half-fact checkers ("half" because they never check their own beloved while passing themselves off as journalists), they can't handle ideas, their brains aren't equipped, one rogue metaphor and they're flailing around wildly in a cup of alphabet soup.
Mitt Romney, if you hadn't grasped it already from Joan's rabid hate of him, is the GOP presidential candidate. Today, he spoke at the Virginia Military Institute. Click here for the speech he gave.
This isn't the "Libya snapshot." But Joan has deliberately distorted what Romney stated about the September 11, 2012 attacks and Joan knows the easiest way to lie about what Romney said is not to quote him in full but to serve up half-sentences. So she rants and raves and hopes you don't know that her overblown faux outrage never quite makes sense. Let's quote a chunk of what he said:
Last month, our nation was attacked again. A U.S. Ambassador and three of our fellow Americans are dead -- murdered in Benghazi, Libya. Among the dead were three veterans. All of them were fine men, on a mission of peace and friendship to a nation that dearly longs for both. President Obama has said that Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues represented the best of America. And he is right. We all mourn their loss.
The attacks against us in Libya were not an isolated incident. They were accompanied by anti-American riots in nearly two dozen other countries, mostly in the Middle East, but also in Africa and Asia. Our embassies have been attacked. Our flag has been burned. Many of our citizens have been threatened and driven from their overseas homes by vicious mobs, shouting "Death to America." These mobs hoisted the black banner of Islamic extremism over American embassies on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
As the dust settles, as the murdered are buried, Americans are asking how this happened, how the threats we face have grown so much worse, and what this calls on America to do. These are the right questions. And I have come here today to offer a larger perspective on these tragic recent events -- and to share with you, and all Americans, my vision for a freer, more prosperous, and more peaceful world.
The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts. They are expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East -- a region that is now in the midst of the most profound upheaval in a century. And the fault lines of this struggle can be seen clearly in Benghazi itself.
The attack on our Consulate in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 was likely the work of forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001. This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the Administration's attempts to convince us of that for so long. No, as the Administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially women and girls; who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West.
We saw all of this in Benghazi last month -- but we also saw something else, something hopeful. After the attack on our Consulate, tens of thousands of Libyans, most of them young people, held a massive protest in Benghazi against the very extremists who murdered our people. They waved signs that read, "The Ambassador was Libya's friend" and "Libya is sorry." They chanted "No to militias." They marched, unarmed, to the terrorist compound. Then they burned it to the ground. As one Libyan woman said, "We are not going to go from darkness to darkness."
This is the struggle that is now shaking the entire Middle East to its foundation. It is the struggle of millions and millions of people -- men and women, young and old, Muslims, Christians and non-believers -- all of whom have had enough of the darkness. It is a struggle for the dignity that comes with freedom, and opportunity, and the right to live under laws of our own making. It is a struggle that has unfolded under green banners in the streets of Iran, in the public squares of Tunisia and Egypt and Yemen, and in the fights for liberty in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Libya, and now Syria. In short, it is a struggle between liberty and tyranny, justice and oppression, hope and despair.
That's Romeny putting facts into a framework. Is it right or wrong? It's really neither. It's a framework and those of who took actually theory classes grasp that. We grasp that there are world views. There are ways people see the world around them. The view above is not a lie or magical thinking or a tribute to mendacity. It is the framework of Mitt's thinking. (Most likely the speech was written by someone else. Not even Barack writes his own speeches. But speech writers do work to reflect the speaker's thoughts.) The speech is not uncommon and altering just a few words and examples would demonstrate that it's one that's basically been givein by candidates of both parties for several decades now. The speech is premised more on bi-polar [due to the either-or construction trap we fall into in the US] than it is uni-polar, so some may see it as a throw back (bi-polar refers to the period when the US and the USSR were considered the two poles, the two giants, controlling world policy; when the USSR imploded, many noted it was now a uni-polar system and a few insisted/predicted that's how it would remain). Others may not feel that way as they see emerging powers on the horizon and may grasp that, historically, a uni-polar system tends to move to a multi-polar or bi-polar one.
If you leave out the section on Chris Stevens, in fact, you've got a view in Mitt's speech that Barack's repetedly referenced in speech after speech -- none of which found Joan objecting to 'mendacity' or 'magical thinking' when Barack, like every other US president, was stating 'people want to be free.' However, this is what the faux fact checker Joan can point to with 'pride:'
Ironically, in a speech most passionate about making sure there's no "daylight" between the U.S. and Israel, Romney repeatedly hailed VMI graduate George Marshall, the former secretary of state who famously opposed Harry Truman's recognizing the state of Israel in 1948.
That's it. He praised a man who opposed the US recognizing Israel. Only in a simplistic mind, only in the mind of someone unable to process and analyze, does one policy position become entirely who they are. Marshall (who I don't personally think was so great) is famous and infamous for many things. But Joan thinks she's found a way to play Ha-Ha-Look-At-The-Idiot. She'll probably repeat it smugly on Hardball when she appears there next. She's a dog who found a dead mouse in the field and brought it up to the farmhouse porch. Nothing more. Thats what the faux fact-checkers do. That's what their mini-minds can almost handle.
[While Joan reduces George Marshall to "the former secretary of state," Romney's praising Marshall as "the Chief of Staff of the Army who became Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, who helped to vanquish fascism and then planned Europe's rescue from despair."]
And every time they puff out their pompous chests and spew their vile, we all get a little dumber as a nation. Joan insists in her opening paragraph that Romney's speech was full of "promises or threats to maintain, restore, escalate or commence military involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Iran at a minimum." That is why I had to read Mitt Romney's speech in full. No offense to Romney, but I had better things to do today then read a stump speech. But if Mitt's making a call for 'maintaining, restoring, escalating or commencing military involvement in Iraq, that's news and it's news that belongs in the snapshot.
So lets read Mitt Romney calling for maintaining/restoring/escalating/commencing military involvement in Iraq:
In Iraq, the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent Al-Qaeda, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad, and the rising influence of Iran. And yet, America's ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence. The President tried -- and failed -- to secure a responsible and gradual drawdown that would have better secured our gains.
What? He didn't call for what Joan said? You mean Joan Walsh lied?
Yeah, she did. And are we shocked? Sadly becoming campaign whores every four years was bad enough. Now the election cycle never ends and the Joan Walshes are campaign whores non-stop. In the process, they degrade and destroy the country.
Self-serving campaign whores like Joan Walsh pretend to give a damn about Iraq. Yet they've never bothered to tell their readers (or repeat when guesting on MSNBC) what Tim Arango (New York Times) reported September 26th, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."
Read Joan Walsh's garbage today. Note her faux outrage. To her it is outrageous that Mitt Romney would attempt to send troops into Iraq. I share that feeling. But unlike Joan, I'm not just upset if Mitt Romney does it and I'll leave it to the cheap whores to pretend like Barack's not trying to do -- right now -- what Joan's falsely declaring Mitt Romney said he'd do today.
If it is outrageous to Joan that Mitt would do what she accuses him of doing (which he didn't do in the speech), then it should be outrageous to her that Barack is doing what she's accused Mitt of. The fact that she doesn't acknowledge what Barack is doing goes to the fact that she's a cheap whore who degrades the public discourse by intentionally lying day after day. Judging by her work, she awakes each morning not thinking of how she might inform or assist American citizens in grasping what is going on. She doesn't want them to be informed. Informed people make their own decisions. Joan wants zombies -- fact challengened ones -- readers of Salon who will march with her to the voting booth and vote Democrat.
That's not how you create an informed citizenry, it's not how you create a healthy democracy. In her post today, Joan accused Mitt Romney of lying. To do that, she had to lie and pretend Barack wasn't trying to do what she was accusing Mitt of and she also had to lie and distort what he said. When you have to lie to take down your political rival, that says a great deal more about you than it does about your rival.
Let's go through what Mitt Romney said about Iraq.
In Iraq, the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent Al-Qaeda, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad, and the rising influence of Iran.
The press reports that al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is responsible for the rise in violence. I tend to be more skeptical of that claim and see this as less about terrorism and more as a fight for who will control the country. In my view, the refusal to share power and bring in Sunnis is creating the same oppression that the Shi'ites lived under for decades. But Mitt Romney expressed statements perfectly in keeping with the American press reports (and Salon's not challenged those reports or even been skeptical of them). From the right and the left, you read about Iran and Iraq's increased relationship. From the right, it's Barack's fault for what he's done in the last four years (his fault that Iran and Iraq are so much closer), from the left it's Bush's fault for starting the illegal war. Regardless of who gets blamed, the reality is that Iraq and Iran are much closer than they were before 2003.
And yet, America's ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence.
Where's the controversy there? Abrupt? It was an abrupt drawdown. It wasn't a withdrawal -- all forces have not left Iraq. But to argue with Mitt Romney that it wasn't a withdrawal, you'd have to have offered at some point that it was a drawdown. Salon's never done that. Few have. Most go along with the lie that all US forces were brought home from Iraq by Barack in December 2011. Most fail to note the 15,000 that were moved to Kuwait (which the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recommended this summer drop to 13,000 and be left there for several years), most fail to note the Special-Ops that remained in Iraq, the trainers, the military to protect the Embassy, etc. But it was "abrupt," the drawdown.
"America's ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined"?
Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq's first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."
Back to Mitt Romney.
In Iraq, the costly gains made by our troops The President tried -- and failed -- to secure a responsible and gradual drawdown that would have better secured our gains.
Wheres the problem with that? That is what happened.
Negotiations fell apart. In November they were ongoing, in December, (most) US troops were leaving. November 15, 2011, the Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony from Gen Martin Dempsey (Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff) and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. In that hearing, the ongoing negotiations were discussed by Panetta repeatedly. If you missed that, we reported on the hearing in three consecutive snapshots: "Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot." Ava reported on it with "Scott Brown questions Panetta and Dempsey (Ava)," Wally reported on it with "The costs (Wally)" and Kat reported on it with "Who wanted what?" -- we also covered it repeatedly at Third.
It was actual news. If you're not familiar with it that's because the so-called grown up press chose to ignore the heart of the hearing to instead (mis)report a line of questioning between Senator John McCain and Panetta. They reduced a hearing on Iraq to McCain got nasty! And wanted to pretend that this sort of National Enquirer tabloidization of the hearing counted as 'reporting.' (Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times was the only one at a daily paper -- and even the wire services missed it -- to inform about the large issues the hearing was addressing. Broadcast news stuck to catty or ignored the hearing entirely.)
America has lost influence in Iraq. The White House keeps trying to get Nouri's Baghdad-based government to go along with war on Syria. Nouri keeps refusing. Today, Lina Saiigol and Michael Peet (Financial Times of London) report, "Iraq is quietly shipping vital supplies of fuel oil to Syira in a deal that has triggered concern in Washington and exposes Damascus's difficulties keeping its economy afloat in the face of a growing civil war and economic sanctions." The government of Russia has opposed the US government's desire for war on Syria (via its seat on the UN Security-Council, among other things). Guess where Nouri is today?
Dar Addustour notes that Nouri was received by Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, in Moscow today as the two, in the words of Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh, improve diplomatic and military ties between the two countries. Iraq's most recent diplomatic move with Russia prior was the arrest of Russian bikers, the torture of Russian bikers. So this is a big step for Iraq. Al Mada reports that Nouri is hoping to replace American influence with Russian influence. AGI adds that "the two heads of government will be addressing the Syrian escalation. Both countries have been accused by members of the international community if backing the [Syrian President Bashar] Assad regime." Xinhua quotes Nouri declaring, "Some people describe this visit as solely about arms purchases. But that is not the case." UPI notes that word in Baghdad is that "Maliki will sign a $5 billion air-defense contract with Moscow. It's not clear whether Baghdad's seeking to pressure Washington to speed up the delivery of arms or [. . .] genuinely seeks an alternate major power source of supply." IANS/RIA Novosit adds, "Asked how the Iraqi authorities will explain Russian arms purchases to the US, al-Maliki said his country did not consult anyone regarding arms purchases." Kitabat reports that Nouri's hoping Russia can help with air defense which would further weaken the relationship with the US government. In a Dar Addustour column, As Sheikh sees the trip as Russia's attempt to block US influence in the region and to rearrange alliances.
As Iraq seeks to increase ties with Russia, new tensions emerge with Iran whose government today began issuing public warnings. Vestnik reports, "Iran's Ambassador to Baghdad Hassan Danaeifar has warned against the consequences of Iraq's inspection of a Syria-bound Iranian cargo plane." ISNA quotes Danaeifar stating, "What Iraq did about inspection of airplanes bound for Syria is not proportional to the diplomatic ties of the two sides and is contradictory to security agreements and air transportation treaty of the two countries."
Saturday, "Al Mada reports that the US military has entered Baghdad International Airport and taken over the inspection of all Iranian planes en route to Syria." Kitabat reports that on Sunday the US took the lead in the inspections. This may account for the Iranian government's sudden desire to comment on the policy. Two weeks ago, when Iraqis inspected the first Iranian plane bound for Syria, and publicly noted the inspection, there was no real comment from the Iranian regime. Suddenly, it's an issue, a very big issue. Hard to believe the reports of the US now handling the inspections isn't responsible for some of the warning statements from the Iranian government.
Conflicts also continue with Turkey. Kitabat reports the Turkish military is stating it bombed northern Iraq last night via war planes (twelve F-16s) in the continued assault on the Kurdish rebel group PKK. Trend News Agency reports the war planes used "missile and bomb strikes." 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." Last night's bombings were the third night in a row. Kitabat noted the Friday air raids with Press TV adding, "On October 5, Turkish security forces killed six PKK members during separate operations in the eastern provinces of Elazig and Siirt." Press TV reports the war planes continued bombing Saturday. AFP explains, "The latest operation comes after the Turkish government asked parliament last week to renew the mandate for its armed forces to attack Kurdish rebel bases in Iraq for another year, as the clashes sharply escalated between the two sides." And Kristin Deasy (Global Post) reminds, "Baghdad on Tuesday announced that it would no longer tolerate foreign intervention -- a statement seen as directed at Turkey's military activity in the north, according to AFP. Tensions between the two nations have been on the rise." The Saudi Gazette reports bombings continued Monday night ("overnight" -- it's Tuesday in the region already).
The parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee said that there are 16 Turkish military bases on Iraqi territory along the border with Turkey.
Committee member Mahdi al-Musawi told Azzaman yesterday [Oct. 6]: "Committee member Safia al-Suhail -- in the presence of officials from both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and from the central government [in Baghdad] -- said that 16 Turkish military bases exist on Iraqi territory. No one denied these claims."
Suhail explained that "the committee is implementing several measures to deal with this issue. These include communicating with the KRG to review and re-examine the agreements that the former regime had previously signed with Turkey regarding Turkey's presence inside Iraqi territory.
Kitabat observes today that the last days have seen mass executions in Iraq. Yesterday, AFP reported 11 more people were executed. That brought the total number executed in Iraq so far this year -- known to be executed -- to 113. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) noted, "The execution of large groups of prisoners has drawn attention from human rights advocates, who have raised concerns about the fairness of trials and transparency of court proceedings." BBC adds that the death penalty was re-instated in Iraq in 2004. RTT News reports, "Eleven prisoners were executed in Iraq on Sunday after they were convicted of terrorism charges, despite repeated international pleas to end the inhuman practice of state killings of convicted prisoners whatever their offenses may be." KUNA noted, "All peremptory challenges have been exhuasted as the Iraqi president has signed their execution verdicts." UPI reports Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has termed these executions "terrifying" and noted "not a single death row pardon has been issued." The outcry over the Sunday executions had yet to die down when AFP reported that 6 more people were executed today bringing the total for the year to 119.
Along with mass executions, mass arrests continue in Iraq. Alsumaria reports 29 today, there were 40 yesterday. The mass arrests have been perceived (I would say "rightly perceived") in the past as Nouri's attempt to target his political rivals. Today UPI features a disturbing "Special Report" which opens:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a longtime friend of Tehran, has systematically infiltrated his operatives into the country's intelligence services, rebuilt by the CIA after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 as a buttress against Iranian influence.
These services are a crucial component in what is increasingly seen as Maliki's intention to establish himself as the supreme power in Iraq as it drives to become one of the world's energy superpowers.
Back to the US. Tomorrow in Washington state, veterans will join two politicians to raise awareness of inequality in reproductive rights for veterans, inequality that can prevent veterans and their spouses from starting or expanding families. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office notes:
FOR PLANNING PURPOSES
Monday, October 8, 2012
CONTACT: Matt McAlvanah (Murray) 202-286-1648
Bryan Thomas (Larsen) 202-420-8882
TOMORROW: Seriously Injured Veterans to Join Murray, Larsen to Discuss Efforts to Provide In Vitro Fertilization Services at the VA
Murray and Larsen currently have bill before Congress that ends the ban on IVF services at the VA; would help veterans with catastrophic wounds to start or grow their families
Currently, veterans and their spouses have to pay thousands out-of-pocket in the private sector to access IVF services
(Seattle) Tomorrow, Tuesday, October 9th, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs' Committee, and Representative Rick Larsen will join with Washington state veterans that have experienced reproductive injuries to discuss their legislation to end the ban on In Vitro Fertilization services at the VA. The veterans and their spouses on hand will discuss the genefits of having IVF services available at the VA and how, in some instances, they've had to pay significantly high out-of-pocket costs in the private sector to start their own families.
Pentagon data shows that since 2003 more than 1,800 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered pelvic fractures and genitourinary injuries that could affect their abilities to reproduce. In particular, the reliance on foot patrols in Afghanistan and the use of improvised explosive devices has left servicemembers far more susceptible to these injuries. Murray and Larsen's legislation would allow these servicemembers to access IVF when they return home to access care at the VA.
WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Representative Rick Larsen
Injured Washington state veterans
WHAT: Discussion on Changing In Vitro Fertilization policy at the VA