Monday, September 29, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Monday, September 29, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, the US Secretary of Defense declares no withdrawal happening if Obama or McCain become president, Friday's non-debate and more.
Today Basil Adas (Gulf News) covers the continued efforts to of the White House and the puppet government in Baghdad to push through a treaty (circumventing the US Senate and the US Consitution, though the Iraqi Parliament will supposedly be able to give a thumbs up or thumbs down)masquerading as a SOFA. Adas reports that the issue of the immunity of US troops is something the US now signals they're willing to discuss according to the Kurdistan Alliance's Feriad Rawanduz who is hopeful that a treaty can be pushed through before the end of the year. Abdul Aziz al Hakim tells Adas that possibly their could be a judicial body comprised of both Iraqis and Americans who would rule on the actions of individual US service members. Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Iraq, is optimistic and claims the 'movement' is some sort of rebuke to Iran (from Iraq).  Adas says the path after a treaty is drawn up is the Executive Board, then the National Security Council and the Iraqi Parliament. Finally, Adas notes: "Meanwhile, Defence Minister Abdul Qader Jasem Mohammad confirmed yesterday that Washington had offered a number of Beechcraft spy planes to bolster the Iraqi security forces."  Iran's Press TV reports that rumors state the White House and the puppet have "settled their main differences over a controversial security agreement."  Nothing was said about the treaty in Robert Wood's press briefing at the US State Dept today nor did Tony Fratto mention it in his White House press briefing today. US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker has repeatedly blamed the Iranian government for the US failure to control the puppet and did so again in an interview with AP's John Daniszewski where he stated, "The evidence is pretty clear. It is the stream of public statements coming out of Tehran, political and clerical figures, all criticizing the agreement. So they are being very open about their interference."
From the treaty to provincial elections.  Last week a bill passed the Parliament that is now awaits a thumbs up or down from the presidency council.  On Sunday, Iraqi Christians took to the streets to protest the bill.   AP noted that "hundreds of Christians staged protests" today in Iraq and those protests were probably most effective on the world stage. al-Maliki's shown no concern for the rights of any of the religious minorities in Iraq; however, the puppet knows that persecution of Christians won't play well with the Americans still supporting the Iraq War so he moved quickly to insist that he supports seats in Parliament being reserved for religious minorities. Sadly, some will play that development out as if it matters. It doesn't matter at all. Parliament voted on the bill, it is sent to the presidency council who will either sign off on it (making it law) or reject it. al-Maliki's way too late to impact anything unless the bill is rejected and the Parliament takes another shot at it.  Reuters notes that al-Maliki's claiming Parliament can add things to the bill.  Well that would actually make it a new bill and not what the full Parliament voted on.  Reuters quotes Iraq's Chaladean Catholic leader, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, stating, "I call on the presidency council not to approve the cancellation of article 50 of the provincial law which is an oppression against our presence and representation in Iraqi society."  Shamiram Daniali (Assyria Times) declares, "Just when we thought things cannot possibly go any worse for the most persecuted population of Iraq, its indigenous people who are Assyrian Christians, we witnessed the biggest injustice yet by the Iraqi Parliament."

Staying with the weekend, Saturday AFP reported a Jalawla raid by the Iraqi police on the Kuridsh pesh merga and, citing Salah Koikha ("spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan"), 1 pesh merga member was killed during the raid. Reuters adds that 1 Iraqi police office officer died.  The raid took place in Diyala Province where the pesh merga has prevented Iraqi forces from enterting certain areas such as Khanaquin (see last Monday's snapshot). India's Economic Times observes, "In a mirror image of Kirkuk, the Kurdish town of Khanaqin near the border with Iran that holds sizeable oil reserves is being exposed to ethnic tensions and rival territorial claims. The local Kurdish political leadership warns that the area could see an ethnic explosion, as they call for Khanaqin to join the adjoining autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq."
This morning Basil Adas (Gulf News) reported, "Meanwhile, Defence Minister Abdul Qader Jasem Mohammad confirmed yesterday that Washington had offered a number of Beechcraft spy planes to bolster the Iraqi security forces." Vanessa Gera (AP) reports that it was 12 planes and that Mohammed al-Askari, Defense Minister, has confirmed that "six King Air planes had been delivered and the other six were expected soon."  In a possible related item, Aseel Kami (Reuters) reports Iraqi doctors can now pack heat thanks to a new decree from al-Maliki's cabinet. 
Violence continued over the weekend and Sundays bombings gathered attention. Reporting on that (and the Iraqi Christians), Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) observed, "The violence and the protests showed the tensions that still exist in Iraq despite progress on security and political reconciliation. The blasts were particularly jarring because they came around sunset, when the markets are filled with people buying food for the evening meal that breaks their daylong fast during the holy month of Ramadan." Susman quoted bombing victim Hidar Abdulhussein stating, "We are innocent and peaceful people. Why are they targeting markets and shoppers? How were they able to get in? There are so many army and police checkpoints."  Sam Dagher and Muhammed al-Obaidi (New York Times) cite Mizher Abed Hanoush who "echoed concerns voiced by many Iraqis in recent weeks about the fragility of the security situation in Baghdad. 'The situation is turning to the worse again, I do not know why,' he said."  AP notes that the death toll from yesterday's bombings have climbed to at least 35.  Turning to some of today's violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack which wounded five people, another which wounded three people and a third which wounded one person while a Mosul car bombing left nine people wounded "including 5 Peshmerga members of the PDK."  Reuters notes 1 "Sunni Arab tribal leader died on Monday of wounds inflicted by a bomb attached to his car that exploded on Sunday in Mosul," an Iskandariya roadside bombing that claimed 1 life (three people wounded) and a Samarra roadside bombing that left Samarra Mayor Mahmoud Khalif (and four of his guards) wounded.
Reuters reports 2 brothers were shot dead in Mosul. Vanessa Gera (AP) reports Sheik Ahmed Salim was wounded in a Diyala Province shooting which also claimed the lives of his 2 sons.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Mosul.
Reuters notes, "A U.S. soldier was killed by small arms fire when his patrol was attacked in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said."
Meanwhile, speaking in DC at the National Defense University today, US Secretary Robert Gates joked about the run away defense budget, "Resources are scarce -- and yes, it is a sign I've already been at the Pentagon for too long to say that with a straight face when talking about a half trillion dollar base budget. Nonetheless, we still must set priorities and consider inescapable tradeoffs and opportunity costs."  He further made clear that McCain or Obama, there's no withdrawal from Iraq happening: "In Iraq, the number of U.S. combat units in country will decline over time. About the only argument you hear now is about the pacing of the drawdown. Still, no matter who is elected president in November, there will continue to be some kind of American advisory and counter-terrorism effort in Iraq for years to come."
Moving into the US presidential race.  Lynette Long is supporting the McCain - Palin ticket and Long is a feminist.  Bill Clinton cited her last week on ABC's The View and yesterday on NBC's Meet The Press.  At her site, Long compiles a list of reasons as to why Governor Palin is "Good For Women" which includes "keeping the issue of sexism in the United States of America front and center" and expanding "the definition of feminism."  She also writes that following speaking at a McCain - Palin rally, "An executive member of the National Organization for Women contacted me the very next day.  It was a friendly conversation tinted with sarcasm.  'How do you feel about your speech?' she asked me.  'Great.' I responded. 'Why shouldn't I feel great.  I gave a speech about women's rights in front of a large audience.  I highlighted the under-representation of women in every branch of government, the sexism in the media, and the unfair treatment of Hillary Clinton by the Democratic Party.'  'Where did you give your speech?' A rhetorical question deserved a quip answer, 'Before thirty-thousand Americans.'  Republicans are Americans, aren't they.  'By speaking at a McCain-Palin event people will think you are endorsing McCain.'  That's the point, I am endorsing McCain-Palin."  We're starting with this because a number of members of the Cult of Obama are repeating the lie that many 'feminists' have.  (And it will be 'feminists' until they correct that and other lies they've spread.)  'Sarah Palin wants rape victims to pay for their own rape kits!'  Prove it.  September 24th, published their item on it and they found nothing to prove that rumor.  No proof.  That's how the Cult took down Hillary, they repeated lies and piled on more lies.  Usually, the most effective lie was the one that turned a Hillary strength into a liability -- a strength Barack didn't posses.  So when 'feminists' rush to tell you Sarah Palin hunted wolves from a helicopter, the appropriate response is, "You, ma'am, are a damn liar."  And when they insist that Palin forced rape victims to pay for rape kits, the same reply should be followed by pointing to Barack's "Faith, Family, Values Tour" with headliner Doug Kmiec who is both a homophobe (and actively fighting to overturn marriage equality in California) and an anti-choice advocate who admitted to the New York Times last month that he wanted Roe v. Wade overturned. If 'feminists' think that's feminism, they have more problems than lying.
As the press continues digging around Palin's past can someone help me out here?  I thought during the Democratic Party primaries, when Barack kept suggesting that there was something evil in Hillary and Bill Clinton's tax returns, that Barack himself made a promise.  There was nothing evil in their tax returns as was demonstrated when the Clintons released them.  But didn't Barack promise to release his papers from when he was in the Illinois legislature.  It was hard, he whined, because he didn't have that much money.  Well he's sitting on a large wad of Wall St. money and surely, all these months later, the papers must have been compiled.  Exactly when will he be making them public?
Violet Socks (Reclusive Leftist) explains, "Whenever women in a patriarchal society buck male opinion, there's hell to pay and they know it. Women in America really went out on a limb this year by backing Hillary in the face of withering derision from men (and from young women attempting to curry favor with men, consciously or not). Now they're making amends by piling on Palin.  Ridiculing Sarah Palin as a moron -- which she clearly is not -- is de rigueur for everybody now in the Obama camp. It's their preferred sport. It's true that Palin is verbally awkward in interviews, but then, Obama himself is a man whose unscripted remarks are so ignorant and confused they defy belief. A teleprompter-deprived Obama thinks there are 57 states in the Union, believes Oregon is in the Great Lakes region, doesn't know which states border his own state of Illinois, and has no idea which Senate committees he's on."  And, yes, in response to some e-mails today, the ridicule Palin faces is sexism and just because some self-proclaimed 'feminist' online wants to pretend Tina Fey's sexist (and, yes, bitchy) portrayal of Palin is nothing to fret over doesn't make it so. Staying with stupidity, the  I-stalk-my-ex-and-trash-his-younger (and prettier)-new-partner 'feminist' Katha Pollitt who offered up that Palin was an "affirmative action babe."  First, there's nothing wrong with affirmative action when someone is qualified.  Second, when Katha's sold out feminism (as she freely admitted doing in April) for her hero Barack, maybe calling a candidate an "affirmative action" hire isn't the way to go because Barack's qualifications are non-existant.  Katha wipes the sweat from underneath her many chins, hunkers down at the keyboard and comes up with one falsehood after another.  At one point, she has to drag Carly Fiorina into it because Katha longs for a girlfight (longs for anything that will get her fat ass some attention but it's not 1996 and most stopped reading Katha long ago) so she rushes to type that Carly Fiornia was "ushered off the stage after she pointed out that Sarah Plin couldn't run a major corporation".  Just as Katha has to insist that she was dumped by the one who got away because of his own problems (not the story everyone else heard), Katha has to omit a lot of reality when pretending to talk politics.  CNN quoting Fiorina, "Well I don't think John McCain could run a major corporation, I don't think Barack Obama could run a major corporation, I don't think Joe Biden could run a major corporation."  It must be very sad to be Katha Pollitt.  It's even sadder to have to read her (no link to trash so no link to Katha).  Long after the election's over, feminists will be addressing what went down and Liars for Barack like Katha will be the new Susan Brownmillers (and that's not anything to wish for, read Susan Faludi's Backlash). And since Katha crossed my line-you-do-not-cross (special needs children), let me toss out that each passing day finds Katha looking more and more like Bill Clinton's ugly brother.  And for Katha's friend who sometimes e-mails, ask Katha to watch her words about special needs children before you beg me not to comment on Katha's Butt Ugly-ness. Meanwhile Mollie (Get Religion) explains how the press regularly distorts Palin's religion and, no surprise there, she just had to look to the Los Angeles Times.
Barack participated in a two-party presidential 'debate on FridaySusan (Random Thoughts) offers this evaluation, "Thank God it's over. I call it a draw; both were equally boring, equally deceptive, equally unfit for the job of president."  Klownhaus notes the Cult reaction and attempts to break it down for TalkLeft's Jeralyn: "Do you want to know what the difference between spinning and outright lying is? There isn't one."  Patrick Martin (WSWS) found the debate underscored "that there is no choice in the 2008 presidential election within the confines of the official two-party system.  Two candidates stood facing each other, espousing nearly identical positions in defense of Wall Street and American militarism which would, in any other country in the world, immediately identify them as representatives of the ultra-right. . . . Obama said that the lesson of Iraq was 'we should never hesitate to use military force, and I will not, as president, in order to keep the American people safe, never hesitate to use military force'."  Asked by moderator Jim Lehrer ("how do you see the lessons of Iraq, Senator Obama?"), Barack responded, "So I think the lesson to be drawn is that we should never hesitate to use military force, and I will not, as president, in order to keep the American people safe. But we have to use our military wisely. And we did not use our military wisely in Iraq."  That was a good catch by Martin and one I honestly missed.  After the question is asked by Lehrer, Barack takes six paragraphs to get that point (six paragraphs according to CNN transcript).  Speaking to PBS' Ray Suarez following the debate (transcript and audio), presidential historian Michael Beschloss noted that "John McCain was repeatedly on the offensive and, to some extent, Obama was on the defensive.  I was surprised by that.  In terms of strategy, we'll see what works.  But oftentimes in debates, if a candidate does go on the offensive, it does tend to work.  That's what Kennedy did in 1960.  It's what Ronald Reagan did in 1980.  And it is what Bill Clinton did in 1992."  PBS' Washington Week did two broadcast on Friday instead of their usual one.  The first was pre-debate (standout there was the Washington Post's Dan Balz reporting from the debate location) and the second was a post-debate discussion.  From the second broadcast:
Gwen Ifill: I was struck Michele that Barack Obama didn't seem to have much of an answer to that experience question.
Michelle Norris (NPR): I was surprised because it was basically John McCain's closing statement.  He said that he had been involved in virtually every major national security crisis over the last 25 years  and he said directly --
Gwen Ifill: He named half the leaders he'd met with.
Michele Norris: Yes.  And he said I don't think Barack Obama has the experience or the judgment to be president and Jim Lehrer didn't say anything and basically let Barack Obama respond and the first thing he said was my father came from Kenya It was not directly dealing with that and I was very surprised by that.

It isn't who won. It's what won.     
Always ask after you watch a debate, not who won, but what lost and what won. 
Militarism won.  
Boondoggle star wars won.   
Corruption won.    
Corporate crime won.    
Bailouts for Wall Street won.  
Nuclear power won.           
Aggressive NATO won.        

What Lost?  
Peace advocates lost. 
Consumers lost. 
Workers lost. 
Solar energy really lost. 
You ought to ask what they don't talk about, what they ignore, what they avoid. Both of these candidates are vying to get into the White House so they can take orders from their corporate paymasters.     
That's what it's all about. Corporate government or the people's government? That's why we're running: to make a people's government. 
When you ask what won you get a clear view that these two candidates are really afraid of challenging corporate power. It's our job to make them more afraid of the people than big business.   
Video of Ralph's critique can be viewed here. KPFK broadcast the debates (click here for KPFK archives -- it's Friday under "Special Programming" at 5:03 p.m.) with commentary provided by, among others, Sonali Kolhatkar (host of Uprising) who stated, "I think Obama lost a lot of opportunities to strike back at McCain.  Obama was on the defensive, as you said, Obama sounded like he was on the defensive and overall, I think, the debate was quite a bit more boring than I think most people thought."  The only worthwhile guest not running for office was Chris Hedges who noted of the debate, "A lot of empty talk.  It's pretty clear nothing's going to change in Iraq.  Both candidates are going to ramp up the war in Afghanistan.  Neither of them would address the real issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because their hands are tied by the Israeli lobby and the Israeli government."  You can also laugh at many  crackpots if you listen (Dr. Drew -- and add counting to the many skills Dr. Drew lacks).  You can hear Sonali's co-host Ian Masters -- aka Babbling Brook or maybe just "Trainwreck" -- utilize non-stop sexism in his 'commentary' on this week's debate (the one that hasn't taken place).  It wasn't just enough that he deploy SEXISM against Palin, after Cynthia McKinney was off the air he mocked her and called her "loopy" for her Florida analysis which, for the record, was correct.  Ian Masters is a sexist idiot.  It's pathetic that KPFK aired that embarrassment. It's linked for three reasons.  1) Audio for those who want to listen to the debate.  2) Cynthia McKinney.  3) Ralph Nader.  Sonali asked Cynthia whether she supported the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq?
Cynthia McKinney: Absolutely, there's no way that -- I think the Democrats and the Republicans are on the wrong track when they say that we need to have more troops in Afghanistan.  No. the people of Afghanistan don't want more missiles, more deaths, more bombs, more violence.  They want peace.  They want justice.  They want self-determination. And that is what the United States ought to be offering the people of Afghanistan.  And they want legitimate government which Ha mad Karzi does not represent.
Asked of differences between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, Cynthia replied:
Well of course I understand the Democratic Party very well after having served four years in the Georgia legislature as a Democrat and after having served twelve years in the United States Congress as a Democrat.  What I can say is that voters never lose when they vote their values and that is really the message that we should be sending. And for voters who might be torn because of what the corporate press has told them to support -- the corporate political parties about the election of 2000, basically what has been told to voters has been told to them in an effort to prevent them from voting their values because if they voted their values and their values included peace then they would not vote Democrat or Republican, they would vote Green. . . . If their values were social justice, they would not vote Democrat or Republican, they would vote Green.  And what the corporate press has failed to tell us is that the corporate political parties were engaged in the rankest form of disenfranchisement to the tune of one million Black people all over the United States being disenfranchised, being denied the right to have their votes counted in 2000. 78,000 of them were right there in the state of Florida and the Democratic Party did nothing to protect the right of their own voters, which the Black community represents, to have their votes counted. And then in 2004, the further insult was made by John Kerry who made a commitment, a recorded commitment, that we weren't going to see a repeat of 2000 where one million Black people had their votes not counted and then despite the fact that reports were coming in from Ohio of tremendous disenfranchisement in the Black community, John Kerry conceded the very next day.
Following McKinney, Aura Bogada (Free Speech Radio News) spoke to Ralph Nader.
Ralph Nader: I think something needs to be done for the millions of home owners who are going to be foreclosed.  There are a lot of good ways to save them from losing their homes.  The progressive economist Dean Baker in Washington suggests that they be allowed to rent their homes until the situation is stabilized -- rather than be evicted from their homes, they become tenants so that's one approach.  But by and large the White House has not made the case that there needs to be a gigantic bailout and Congress is not investigating having a series hearing of deliberative hearings the way they did for a tiny bail out of Chrysler in 1979.  So they haven't made the case and if there is to be a bailout they haven't shown what kind of bailout, how much is needed, should it be injection of capital, how do they evaluate the distressed assets, how are they going to pay for it, when are they going to pay for it.  It's nothing but a blank check.  $700 billion. George Bush wants. King George the IV, and that's it.  This is dictatorial rule-making and unfortunately the Democrats with a few tweaks here and there are going to roll over.

-Demand the absolute moratorium on foreclosures that some people have already envisioned might be needed. 
-Demand a moratorium on apartment evictions. 
-Encourage our friends and neighbors to truly evaluate their resources now, a few days or weeks before something happens: Make a network with 3 or 4 family members. Where would everyone go, who would they live with, if one by one they got kicked out of their homes? 
-Start thinking of laws to propose, or amendments to this bailout bill, that either punish landlords with residential property not rented out, or make squatting rules so simple that there will not be empty apartments rotting around the country, while some people are homeless and looking for a place to lie their head. 
-Start thinking about a way to put a moratorium on the enforcement of "keeping my neighborhood affluent laws" such as in the town I live in, where it is illegal to have a home with two front doors. Or, rules that only one family can live in a home. (Which should be well thought out, I realize. Because, they could be misapplied by bad landlords to overcrowd, or create burdens that make impossible parking/traffic situations if there is not an emergency.)
We're working that topic back to the presidential election via US House Rep Dennis Kucinich. On Democracy Now! today, he revealed that Barack Obama was said, by House Democrats not to want bankruptcy protection for the home owners: 
Amy Goodman: Congressman Kucinich, can you explain how it is that the Democrats are in charge, yet the Democrats back down on their demand to give bankruptcy judges authority to alter the terms of mortgages for homeowners facing foreclosure, that Democrats also failed in their attempt to steer a portion of any government profits from the package to affordable housing programs?    
Dennis Kucinich: Well, I mean, those are two of the most glaring deficiencies in this bill. And I would maintain there was never any intention to -- you know, well, many members of Congress had the intention of helping people who were in foreclosure. You know, this -- Wall Street doesn't want to do that. Wall Street wants to grab whatever change they can and equity that's left in these properties. So --   

Amy Goodman: Right, but the Democrats are in charge of this.
Dennis Kucinich: Right. You know, I'll tell you something that we were told in our caucus. We were told that our presidential candidate, when the negotiations started at the White House, said that he didn't want this in this bill. Now, that's what we were told. 
Amy Goodman: You were told that Barack Obama did not want this in the bill?
Dennis Kucinich: That he didn't want the bankruptcy provisions in the bill. Now, you know, that's what we were told. And I don't understand why he would say that, if he did say that. And I think that there is a--the fact that we didn't put bankruptcy provisions in, that actually we removed any hope for judges to do any loan modifications or any forbearance. There's no moratorium on mortgage foreclosures in here. So, who's getting --who's really getting helped by this bill? This is a bailout, pure and simple, of Wall Street interests who have been involved in speculation.
Hardly surprising considering where Barack's campaign money comes from.  But see if that gets any more news traction than Biden's speaking error did last week.  Barack and John got to stand on stage in a so-called presidential debate.  Shut out were presidential candidates  Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader, Bob Barr and Chuck BaldwinTeam Nader reports that Trevor Lyman is attempting to organize a debate in NYC for McKinney, Nader, Barr and Baldwin as well as (invited even if they don't show) Barack and McCain.  Lyman explains: "Please join us for a third party candidate debate and money bomb (date to be announced as we approach 10,000 pledges mark, location in New York City). All of the major candidates will be invited to participate. The event will be broadcast via and many others (details to come). Remember, all of America is on the Internet. Together we can break the media blackout on third party candidates. Be sure to tell your friends and family to tune in." And before any e-mails come in, no, all of America is not online.