Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, September 10, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, Barack gets semi-called on sexism and makes more insulting remarks in response to being called out, the House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing, Ron Paul holds a press conference with Chuck Baldwin, Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader, and more.
Today the US House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the Security and Stability in Afghanistan and Iraq: Developments in US Strategy and Operations and the Way Ahead.  Appearing before the committee were US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm Michael Mullen, DoD's Under Secreatry of Defense for Policy, Eric S. Edelman and the Director of Strategic Plans and Policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Adm James Winnefeld.  Ike Skelton is the chair of the committee and his opening remarks included that "I remain concerned about the pace of political progress.  The Iraqis have still not been able to even come to an agreement on holding provincial elections, much less address more fundamental questions like the future of Kirkuk.  Given this, I have a real question of why we are not redeploying additional forces -- both to bolster our efforts in Afghanistan and to keep the pressure on the Iraqis to come to a sustainable political accomodation."  Later in the hearing he would note  the "Sun Tzu precept that says 'A war should not be entered into without considering the end of that war'."
The highest ranking Republican on the committee, Duncan Hunter, made a fool of himself as was expected.  His dubious statements included, "We are winning in Iraq.  The United States is going to be leaving in victory."  During Robert Gates' opening remarks he noted these "challenges:"
* Political progress remains too slow -- as seen recently by the inability of the parliament to pass an election law.  This means that provincial elections, which we believe will continue and enhance the process of reconciliation, will in all likelihood be pushed back until at least December.  Elections also mean the possibility of increased violence.
* There have been some worrisome reports about sectarian efforts to either disrupt or slow the process of assimilation of the Sons of Iraq ["Awakening" Council] into the Iraqi Security Forces.  It is a reminder that sectarin tenaions still exist and have the potential to undo recent progress at the local and national level.
* Despite Iran's pledges last year to stop providing weapons, training and funding to armed militias, evidence suggests that this support continues. [These are Gates' words.  There is no proof/evidence that Iran has supplied anything.  There has never been proof of that.]
* Iraqi security forces still lack many key capabilities.  Many of their operations would simply not have been possible without Coalition enablers.  That will remain the case for some time to come.
* The threat from al Qaeda and other militant groups has receded, but is still very real.  In the last few months, we have seen a number of suicide attacks -- as well as tactical shifts, such as the increased use of women.  This is a reminder that al Qaeda still retains the ability to inflict mass casualties, the operational capacity to assess and change strategies and is still trying to sow chaos and reassert itself. [Again, Gates' words.  al Qaeda in Iraq has always been inflated and was not present until after the illegal war started.  The administration tends to blame any and all violence on "al Qaeda in Iraq" unless they're targeting Iran for blame that day.]
* Similarly, there is the possiblity that Jaish al-Mahdi could return.
Gates insisted the US had "now entered that end game" in Iraq "and our decisions today and in the months ahead will be critical to regional stability and our national security interests for the years to come."
Chair Skelton had serious concerns about a number of issues and they included where the US money is going and why the Iraqi billions are not being spent.  He noted two chief concerns, first that "they [Iraqis] have a lot of money on their own and number two the choice of projects" on which they spend money.  At this point he requested that the committee be supplied with a list of all US expenditures over $120,000.  He expressed concern over Iraq's stated plan "to build the world's largets ferris wheel" and wondered "why are we funding" construction such as hotels with US tax payer money when the central government in Baghdad sits on so many billions that are not being used?
No surprise, no one had an answer for Skelton though a list might be workable at some point.
US House Rep Susan Davis also wanted to know what was happening with the money.  She pointed out that the Iraqi air force is lacking in training and equipment and that it went far beyond that with Iraqi security forces stating that even "batteries that are needed for communication" aren't in supply and "they're saying it's just not getting to them."  Was it an issue of corruption, she wanted to know, where was the breakdown?  Edelman replied, "We're now in the process of getting to those issues."  Now?  Five years after the illegal war began? 
There were no answers supplied to the questions and neither side seemed overly surprised by that (Congress or the witnesses).  Gates spoke of success while also maintaining that the United States would be in Iraq for many "years to come -- although in changing and increasingly limited ways."  US House Rep Solomon Ortiz wondered, "What planning and work has been done to enable the next administration to make its own decision about force levels upon taking office after who wins the presidency? And what limits does the president's recent decision place on force level changes?"
Robert Gates: Mr. Ortiz, I think first of all, that the new president will have a full array of options when he enters office in terms of troop levels in -- in -- in Jan- in Iraq. Uhm.  As I indicated in my opening remarks, I hope that whoever the new president is will listen closely to the commanders in the field and senior military leaders.  I've made the comment before that those who worry and are concerned that the military view was not taken sufficiently into account at the beginning of the war would not neglect it as we get deeper into the end game.  But-but there is nothing in place that would contrain the decisions of a new president in terms of policies or anything else that, uh, that a new president could not -- could not change.  So new president will have complete flexibility and constrained only by his view of our national security interests.
He?  There is a woman running for president. (Rep Michael Conway also referred to "our guys" repeatedly in the hearing.  Just as Gates can't picture a woman as president, Conway is unaware that women serve in the US military.)  Ron Paul ran for the Republican Party's presidential nomination and lost to John McCain. Last week, he held a rally with his supporters in Minnesota. NOW on PBS has an online exclusive with Paul and they also examined his campaign in 2007. Today, he held a press conference with Ralph Nader (independent presidential candidate, now to be on the ballots in 45 states), Cynthia McKinney (Green Party presidential candidate), Chuck Baldwin (Constitution Party's candidate) and Bob Barr (Libertarian Party presidential candidate).  Ralph Nader explains, "Today, along with other third party candidates, I joined Congressman Ron Paul to endorse a common agenda that stands up for the US Constitution by ending illegal wars, and protecting the privacy and civil liberties of all persons under US jurisdiction. We also jointly called for an immediate halt to the increase in the national debt, an end to corporate subsidies and taxpayer bailouts of corporations, and to start aggressively pursuing prosecution of corporations that commit crimes and frauds. Both Congressman Paul and I also support holding President Bush and Dick Cheney to account for their transgressions against our Constitution. Today's coming together of third party candidates marks the beginning of the realignment of American politics." Third Party Watch reports:
Dr. Paul turned the podium over to the others, and Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party's presidential candidate, thanked him for bringing this group together. She recalled that "it took 72 years of struggle and sacrifice, from the beginning of the women's suffrage movement, for women to get the right to vote. I believe today we are starting a new movement of independence from the orthodoxy of our day." (Let's hope it doesn't take 72 years to achieve most of this group's goals!) 
Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party's presidential candidate, said "the real issue in 2008 is not between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, but between globalists and constitutionalists. McCain and Obama are globalists. Baldwin is a constitutionalist."  
McCain, Baldwin said, always refers to the U.S. as an "interdependent nation." "But the Founders didn't sign a Declaration of Interdependence. We are fighting for the preservation of our very form of government, and that's why what Ron Paul is doing today is so important, and why our coming together today is so important."  
And, as Baldwin always reminds his audiences: "I supported Ron Paul. It's because the GOP rejected Ron Paul that I'm here today as a candidate."
Ralph Nader, the Independent candidate for President, seemed the most enthusiastic and optimistic about Paul's coalition. "I think when McKinney, Barr, Baldwin and Nader agree with Ron Paul on these four major areas--I think that's the beginning of a realignment in American politics." And later: "I'm very proud that we've been able to put aside our differences on other subjects--such as health and safety regulations [chuckles from the audience]--to come together on these four important subjects." 

"Awakening" Councils were cited by Gates.  Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) argues that female members are essential: "To combat this threat, Iraqis have begun recruiting women for the Daughters of Iraq, a female counterpart to the Sons of Iraq community policing program largely credited with reducing violence in Iraq. While female security guards remain a small minority, they've stopped many female insurgents. And, some say their example could help change perceptions about the role of women in Iraq." That's a nice little fantasy since female members are paid 20% less than their male peers and, remember, all "Awakening" Council members have been and are currently paid by the US government.  Translation, the White House has said a man doing the same job as a woman is worth more.
Moving over to provincial elections which were mentioned repeatedly in today's hearings.  Nicholas Spangler and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) explain the stalemate remains the oil rich city of Kirkuk, "A loose but powerful coalition of Arab parties is wary of Kurdish control prior to elections; Kurds remain adamentally opposed to any law mandating power sharing in Kirkuk, as the current [election] bill does.  The reporters explain the stalemate has some floating the option of going with the a 2005 election law.  The United Nations is working on their proposal which is to be presented later this month or at the beginning of October.  The United Nations' Staffan de Mistura met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on Sunday as part of the research required for the plan they intend to present.
Yesterday Bully Boy gave his speech on Iraq.  Nancy A. Youssef and Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers) examine it and note, "President Bush's announcement Tuesday that he'll maintain troop levels in Iraq through the end of his presidency suggests that despite his claim that the surge of additional U.S. troops in Iraq has succeeded, the security gains could be temporary, defense officials and experts said."  Michael Abramowitz (Washington Post) noticed that the speech also indicated that other countries are leaving the so-called 'coalition': "The presence of other countries in Iraq, even if the troop contribution was modest, has long been used by the Bush administration as a way of deflecting criticism that its actions in Iraq were "unilateral." Now, Bush is portraying their departure as a sign of "return on success," his policy of bringing home troops as conditions improve in Iraq." 
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Salahuddin Province car bombing wounded three people.  Reuters notes an Iskandariya roadside bombing that left two police officers wounded.
Reuters notes 1 "Christian man" was shot dead in Mosul.

Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 4 in Mosul.
Back to the race for the US presidency.  War Hawk Barack Obama's in trouble for doing something so it was time for all his lovers in the press to come out in full force and defend their Christ-child. 
Here's what he said.
Barack Obama: Let-let's just list this for a second. John McCain says he's about change too. Exc-and-and so I guess his whole angle is 'Watch out, George Bush.  Except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy and Karl Rove style politics, we're really going to shake things up in Washington." That's not change.  That's-that's just calling some the same thing something different But you know you can't e-e-e-e You know you can put uh liptick on a pig, it's still a pig.
When he says "You can put lipstick on a pig," what is Barack doing?  What is he physically doing?  Chicago's gutter boy is flipping the bird and when the finger goes up the howls start. You can see it in the video his campaign/campaign surrogates issued as a response.  We see Dick Cheney speak, no bird flipping. 
You can watch it at Joe Garafoli's post (San Francisco Chronicle) which reads like "He's Sure The Boy I Love."  Barack goes on to make a comment about fish smell.  It's not in the video, they cut it before that point.  CBS contributes, "CBS News reporter Maria Gavrilovic reports that as the crowd laughed, Obama added: 'You can you can, wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change, it's still going to stink after 8 years. We've had enough of the same old thing'."  Last week, Ruth took on sexist pig Ellen Susman who also had a "fish" 'joke' in her smear of Palin.  Writing as if she was Susman, Ruth observed, "And let me call my post 'A Fish Called Sarah.' I will pretend like I think it is a Monty Python film and mention other Monty Python films. But even as stupid as I, Ellen Susman, am, I know it is not. Even as dumb as I am, I do know the "two things smell fish" 'joke.'"  And so does Barack.
They weren't even his own words he was speaking -- which is why he stumbles (no teleprompter).  Joseph (Cannonfire) explains, "His comments were cribbed -- word for word -- from a Washington Post cartoon. Why is Obama allowed to plagiarize when others are not?"  Why indeed and this isn't the first time he's been caught stealing.
As Susan (Random Notes) sums up, "Well, Barack, if you'd have paid attention to presidential campaigns of the past, you would know better than to consider yourself immune to blasphemy, er, criticism, even fake criticism, from the other side."  Delilah Boyd (A Scrivner's Lament) lays it out as plain as day, "Before you Obots go all 'Obama didn't call Palin a pig' on me, hear this: How much longer will men get away with 'I was just kidding,' 'I wasn't talking about you,' and 'What's the matter? can't you take a joke?'"  miq2xu (Klownhaus) [language warning], "Regarding Obama's 'Lipstick on a Pig' comment, I call bull**it on Christy Hardin Smith, Marc Ambinder, D-Day, Taylor Marsh and Whoever Kidnapped Jeralyn Merritt (WKJM²) Each of these people has taken the position that not only were Obama's comments completely innocent, but that the McCain campaign is trying to manufacture a controversy because no reasonable person could possibly get the idea that Obama was calling Sarah Palin a pig. Even if someone truly believed that it was an innocent gaffe (I don't) it is easy to see how that connection could easily be made.  I didn't need anyone to explain it to me, nor did most former Hillary supporters, because we 'periodically' saw these types of misunderstandings before."  Lambert (Corrente) weighs in on Barack's pig remarks, "You know, if Obama hadn't indulged himself by getting snarky in front of a friendly crowd, he could be talking about the economy right now -- and winning P.T.A. moms too, who like those kitchen table issues."  madamab (The Confluence) advises, "Case in point: When you call your opponent's vice president a pig and say she smells like fish, you do not try to pretend you didn't do it. You did it, in front of God and YouTube. So apologize and move on, otherwise you will engender anger and resentment."
On the topic of sexism, it bears noting that Feminist Wire Daily finally got active calling out sexism against Palin, "Donny Deutsch recently made sexist comments about Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin and former Democratic Presidential contender Hillary Clinton. Deutsch appeared on CNBC's Squawk the Street (Watch the video here) and made several misogynistic comments including praising Palin for earning respect through her ability to make men 'want to mate with her' and calling Senator Clinton's loss in the Democratic Primaries a direct result of the fact that she 'didn't put a skirt on.'"  Egalia (Tennessee Guerilla Women) points to another with a need to sexualize Palin Salon's Gary Kamiya who needs to Palin as "a whip-wielding mistress".  Last night Kat took on 'progressive' Ed Garvey's need to compare Palin to erectile medications, "The comparison is insulting; however, it may indicate what's in Garvey's own medicine cabinet."
Now before we get to today's remarks by Barack (which are even more insulting to women -- if anyone actually listens), Kirsten Powers (New York Post) provided the backstory leading up to Palin's speech last week, "No, Obama didn't engage in the mass sneering at Palin - but he did fall into the trap of disrespecting her. When McCain chose her, the Obama campaign's first response was to ridicule the size of her town. Then the candidate himself began referring to her as a "former mayor" when she is in fact a sitting governor. When she retaliated (justifiably) by mocking his stint as a organizer, the Obama camp was clearly rattled. Obama himself actually began arguing about the importance of community organizing. His supporters amplified this cry - claiming Palin's attack was a racist slur and passing around e-mails titled 'Jesus was a community organizer, Pontius Pilate was a governor.' Meanwhile, the rest of the country was probably wondering what being a community organizer has to do with being president."
Today, Barack spoke.  And what did the Christ-child say?  It's wowed some of the usual PIG MEN, Queen Bees and Gender Traitors.  From CNN (text and video), this is Barack:  "We have real problems in this country right now. The American people are looking to us for answers, not distractions, not diversions, not manipulations. They want real answers to the real problems we are facing."
Sexism isn't a real problem to Barack Obama.  It's an annoyance for him to have to address sexism.  He's laughing in the video.  He finds it all so funny.  (I find his attempt to grow a mustache hilarious.  That's day two by the way.)  "This is what they want to talk about," insists Barack. And talking about it means he's not able to address "the issues that matter to you."  Barack, you sad PIG, sexism matters to me and to many.  It's not a "diversion" or a "distraction" (his words), it is a very real issue.
And it took Katie Couric calling it out to finally get the MSM to notice it.  And what was the Obama campaign's response?  Katharine Q. Seelye and Julie Bosman (New York Times) reported in June what US House Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz told them on behalf of Team Obama, "She said Mr. Obama had no specific plans for a speech on sexism, partly because he already incorporates themes of discrimination as a societal problem into his speeches."
But Barack's bothered that he had to even get near the topic today.  He calls it unfair.  He didn't think it was unfair when his Cult was tarring Bill Clinton as a racist for using "fairytale."  He used the odor of fish and lipstick on a pig to insult a woman.  All Bill Clinton did was point out Barack was a damn liar about his positions on the illegal war
Sexism can be used by Barack's campaign and by Barack but the Christ-child must never have to address the topic and sends out flunkies (he hides behind a lot of women) to insist that he's already addressed an "ism" and wasn't that enough?  No.  No, it is not enough.  In March 2008, he decied to bore the country with a never-ending stream of words (4,683) allegedly on the topic of race. (It wasn't about race it was about the only topic he enjoys getting wordy on: Himself.)   He can't address sexism? 
He has two daughters and he can't address sexism?  He said of Hillary Clinton that "periodically" when Hillary was "feeling blue" "the claws come out."  He's now going after Sarah Palin and wants yet another pass?  He can't address sexism but, as Marie Cocco's "Obama's Abortion Stance When 'Feeling Blue'" (Washington Post Writers Group) pointed out, he's got plenty of time to speak to anti-women men:
Obama says that these women should not be able to obtain a late-term abortion, because just "feeling blue" isn't the same as suffering "serious clinical mental health diseases." True enough. And totally infuriating.       
During the recent Obama pander tour -- the one in which he spent about a week trying to win over conservative religious voters -- the presumptive Democratic nominee unnecessarily endorsed President Bush's faith-based initiative, a sort of patronage program that rewards religious activists for their political support with public grants. Then in a St. Louis speech, Obama declared that "I let Jesus Christ into my life." That's fine, but we already have a president who believes this was a qualification for the Oval Office, and look where that's gotten us.Obama's verbal meanderings on the issue of late-term abortion go further. He has muddied his position. Whether this is a mistake or deliberate triangulation, only Obama knows for sure.        

One thing is certain: Obama has backhandedly given credibility to the right-wing narrative that women who have abortions -- even those who go through the physically and mentally wrenching experience of a late-term abortion -- are frivolous and selfish creatures who might perhaps undergo this ordeal because they are "feeling blue."
When Palin entered the race and made her "lipstick" line, the game changed.  If Hillary had been the Democratic nominee and had chosen Joe Biden for her running mate, John McCain could declare that they were negative and refer to their "dark vision" for America's future.  With Barack as the nominee, his use of that term would be called out immediately.  With Barack in the race, the game changes.  It's the same thing with Sarah Palin being in the race.  Barack's remarks yesterday were pre-pared as evidenced by the fact that he stole a huge chunk from a cartoon.  If he and his team are too stupid to grasp how those remarks would play, that's their own damn fault.  He should have apologized.
Instead, he hides behind women and has them trot out to offer excuses and attacks.  It's not going to work anymore than it does in a court room when a rapist hires a female attorney or a rapist's defense team uses the sole woman to cross examine the rape victim.  If Barack can't even address sexism what does that really say about him?  And what does it say about the women who allow him to hide?  President of NOW's New York state chapter Marcia Pappas offers "To Women Who Love Their Political Party Too Much" and all -- men and women -- would benefit from reading that.   And on a similar note,
Women can be sexist, too, you know, just like persons of color can be racist. As the media debate whether Gov. Sarah Palin's public treatment is sexist or not, take this punch, socked to Palin by a woman, that's as clearly out of bounds as a husband slapping his wife in the face in public.  
As related by The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus today:       
My colleague Sally Quinn put it most provocatively. "Is she prepared for the all-consuming nature of the job?" Quinn wondered. "When the phone rings at three in the morning and one of her children is really sick, what choice will she make?"       
Has Quinn ever asked the same question of a man running for vice president? Of course not, nor would she. What if the answer is, Sarah Palin would take the call at 3 a.m. and jump on any plane to anywhere in the world, confident that her husband would care for the sick child? To pose the question is to promote idiotic and sexist media viewpoints, while ignoring the much more important flaws in the Palin candidacy.