Thursday, December 11, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, December 11, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq's latest buying spree, Punk Ass Liars for the Treaty Get It Upside The Head from al-Maliki's spokesperson (the sound you hear is a thousand liars trying to delete all their past commentaries and 'reporting'), and much, much more.
Let's start by remembering recent events.  October 31st, AP reported the puppet government in Baghdad's latest boo-hoo: Oil prices had dropped and their budget for 2009 had to be cut by $13 billion. The Guardian of London (via Iraq Directory) was writing that there was talk of raising production due to the drop from the expected $80 billion 2009 budget to the $67 billion budget. In 2008, they couldn't meet their spending targets and sat on a ton of money while infrastructure remained unrepaired and Iraqis suffered without electricity and potable water.  This week they're on a spending spree. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency made several announcements yesterday [all links of announcements take you to PDF format].   DSCA announced: "On Dec. 9, the Dfense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 36 AT-6B Texan II Aircraft as well as associated support.  The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $520 million."  And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 400 M1126 STRYKER Infantry Carrier Vehicles as well as associated equipment.  The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $1.11 billion." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 20 T-6A Texan aircraft, 20 Global Positioning Systems (GPS) as well as associated equipment and services.  The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $210 million."  And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of (20) 30-35 meter Coastal Patrol Boats and (3) 55-60 meter Offshore Support Vessels as well as associated equipment and services.  The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $1.010 billion." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 140 M1A1 Abrams tanks modified and upgraded to the M1A1M Abrams configuration, 8 M88A2 Tank Recovery Vehicles, 64 M1151A1B1 Armored High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV), 92 M1152 Shelter Carriers, 12 M577A2 Command Post Carriers, 16 M548A1 Tracked Logistics Behicles, 8 M113A2 Armored Ambulances, and 420 AN/VRC-92 Vehicular Receiver Transmitters as well as associated equipment and services.  The total value, if all options are exercised could be as high as $2.160 billion."  And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 26 Bell Armed 407 Helicopters, 26 Rolls Royce 250-C-30 Engines, 26 M280 2.75-inch Launchers, 26 XM296 .50 Cal. Machine Guns with 500 Round Ammunition Box, 26 M299 HELLFIRE Guided Missile Launchers as well as associated equipment and services.  The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $366 million."  And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of (80,000) M16A4 5.56MM Rifles, (25,000) M4 5.56MM Carbines, (2,550) M203 40MM Grenade Launchers as well as associated equipment and services.  The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $148 million."  And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of (64) Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelters (DRASH), (1,500) 50 watt Very High Frequency (VHF) Base Station Radios, (6,000) VHF Tactical Handheld Radios, (100) VHF Fixed Retransmitters, (200) VHF Vehicular Radios, (30) VHF Maritime 50 watt Base Stations, (150) 150 watt High Frequency (HF) Base Station Radio Systems, (150) 20 watt HF Vehicular Radios, (30) 20 watt HF Manpack Radios, (50) 50 watt Very High Frequency/Ultra High Frequency (VHF/UHF) Ground to Air Radio Systems, (50) 150 watt VHF/UHF Ground to Air Radio Systems, (50) 5 watt Multiband Handheld Radio Systems as well as associated equipment and services.  The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $485 Million."  That is over six billion dollars being committed "if all options are exercised" -- which is a little over 10% of their entire budget for 2009.  There's always money to spend when it comes to weapons.  And human life is always done on the cheap. 
Bill Van Auken (WSWS) observes, "In Iraq, the death toll has risen to well over a million.  An estimated 2 million more have been wounded and at least 4 million have been forced to flee the country or turned into internal refugees.  In short, nearly six years of war and occupation hvae left more than 20 percent of the nation's pre-war population, dead, maimed, expelled or homeless."  IRIN reports on Egypt's Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) and the American University in Cairo's Center for Migration and Refugee Studies survey of Iraqi refugees in Egypt which found, as stated by lead researcher Sara Sadek, "Lack of income is the main problem, followed by education."  Meanwhile Christopher Watt (Maisonnueve) reports on Iraqi refugees in Syria, "In Damascus refugee circles, limbo is a popular word.  The problems these people face often go deeper than uncertainty about their legal status.  In the Sunni-Christian neighborhood of Jaramanah, where 100,000 Iraqis are said to live, a boy named Zaid is silent while his father, a former meachnic in Saddam's air force, describes a bus crash last year that left Zaid without his right arm and his face covered in scars.  He shields them from view with a New York Yankees hat pulled down low.  In a cruel irony, Zaid received his injuries on a visa run.  The family had received its new stamps from Al Tanf border crossing east of Damascus, but on the road home to Jaramanah the bus driver lost control.  They are seeking help in Canada, but the father believes his connection to the Baath regime could ruin Zaid's shot at plastic surgery and a better prosthetic."  As the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres noted (writing in the Telegraph of London), "The refugee problem is a responsibility of the international community as a whole, and can only be effectively tackled by means of collective and cooperative action."  And the issue of refugees (both Iraqi and non-Iraqi) inside Iraq?
UNAMI SRSG Staffan de Mistura expresed concern about the situation of over 1000 foreign workers brought by international contractors currently in Baghdad Interntaional Airport.  Mr. de Mistura said that "UNAMI takes the allegations of human trafficking by contractors in Iraq very seriously and is concerned about their predicament.  The case in BIAP is one that has made public headlines but we are aware of other cases, some of which have reached relevant courts, and we hope will also be addressed in accordance with international labor law standards".    
Mr. de Mistura stated that UNAMI has just conducted its own evaluation of the situation in BIAP which supplements the assessment conducted by Internaional Organization for Migration and others and coincides with their findings.  He added that the relevant authorities and contractors concerned are expected to ensure that international labor standards are respected and enforced.  Mr. de Mistura welcomed the indications that those directly involved are already looking into the issue and hoped it will soon be resolved, "so that the suffering of these people, whose hopes have been shattered and who have had to endure severe hardship and disappointment, is rapidly brought to an end."  
This morning, we were wondering which of Patrick Cockburn's personalities would show up next?  Turns out it was Patrick Crazy Ass Cockburn.  And if you doubt it, check this from Reuters: "Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said some U.S. forces could be needed for 10 years but told reporters that the terms of any extended presence would be negotiated between the next Iraqi and U.S. governments."  Poor Crazy Ass Patrick Cockburn.  You know what, if I had LIED non-stop about what the treaty said, if I was nothing but a FILTHY LIAR, I'd be hanging my head in shame.  If I were, for example, Leila Fadel, I'd hide away for days (and maybe use some of that time to buy a decent bra).  But if I was Patrick Cockburn and had just FLAT OUT LIED about the treaty this morning at CounterPunch, I think I would have to just state, "I am a worthless liar that no one should ever believe.  Like everyone else in my crazy family, I have no grip on reality."  Sucks to be one of the liars today.  Poor babies.  Poor, pathetic, useless trash babies.  That's our topic for this evening.  Lies the sort that Patrick, Leila and oh-so many others have trafficed in KILL.  That's what's wrong with them.  It's not like they're pretending they're still virgins or something personal.  They're lying in ways that cost lives.  
On violence, mass fatalities today in Iraq from a single bombing.   Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) notes the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan warned earlier this morning (when the death toll was said to be 30) that the "toll in today's attack is expected to rise."  The BBC notes that the bombing took place "at a restaurant near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk" and that it was done by a suicide bomber.  Hurriyet adds, "The bomber detonated explosives inside a Kurdish restaurant about 10 km (6 miles) north of Kirkuk, said Major General Jamal Tahir, police chief of Kirkuk."  CNN reports the death toll is "at least 55" with one-hundred and nine people injured according to local police and that the name of the restaurant is Abdalla Kabab.  PBS' NewsHour calls it "one of the deadliest attacks in Iraq in the past six months" and also notes 'at least 55" dead but with one-hundred and twenty injured before adding, "The bombing apparently targeted a high-profile meeting of Kurdish officials from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party of President Jalal Talabani, and a group of Arab tribal leaders called the Awakening, who had gathered in an attempt to negotiate ethnic tensions in the region.Yaseen Taha and Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) quote Khadijah Mohammed whose sixteen-year-old son died in the bombing, "My son has become a body.  He was invited by his friends to have lunch on the last day of Eid.  He went out with them.  He told me that they will have a nice time in this restaurant and reluctantly, we allowed him to go, and now he is just a body."  Now picture that.  The son is begging his mother to go Adballa Kabab.  She is stating it is still too dangerous.  At some point he brings up or maybe she remembers the reports of how violence is down in Iraq, of how David Petraeus says that's true and of how every news outlet she can think of has run with that garbage.  Bad news 'reporting' costs lives.  Own it, accept that the blood of the young men is on your hands if you've lied or pimped the illegal war.  Not just before it started or at the start, but if you 'report' spin as fact, accept your responsiblity in this death and all the others.  Operation Happy Talk kills, accept it.  Mustafa Mahmoud (Reuters) describes an emergency room following the bombing, "Men and women clutched their wounds as they lay on gurneys, while medics and family members rushed about, shouting and wailing. A small girl around five years old was curled up quietly on a stretcher, her clothes bloodied."  AP quotes Salam Abudllah who was wounded in the attack along with his wife, "I held my wife and led her outside the place.  As we were leaving, I saw dead bodies soaked with blood and huge destruction."  Aswat Al Iraq reports President Jalal Talabani stated, "With heartfelt grief, we have received news of the death and injury of a large number of innocent citizens in a cowardly terrorist operation that targeted a crowded restaurant on the Kirkuk-Arbil highway. As we vehemently condemn this heinous terrorist operation perpetrated by the vanquished terrorist remnants, we stress for our great Iraqi people, particularly the steadfast residents of Kirkuk, that terrorists will never be able to upset the fantastic security achievements made all over the country's province."
Turning to US politics, Dee Dee Myers (Vanity Fair) observes of Barack Obama's speech writer and professional pig Jon Favreau (not the actor-writer-director) groping a cut-out of Hillary Clinton:
I can't stop thinking about this picture, and I confess I find it really upsetting. And, no, it's not because I don't have a sense of humor. I like to think I have a well-earned reputation for often irreverent, sometimes ill-advised humor. But I'm not laughing now.
And it's not that I was never young. My friends from college and in the years just beyond can testify that I did some things then that I wouldn't want to see on the Internet now. But I had a big job in the White House at a young age too; at 31 -- just a few years older than Favreau is now -- I became White House press secretary. And I knew instantly that the rules had changed for me, that I could no longer go to all the parties of the people just a little younger than me, who had just a little less responsibility, and expect to be anonymous. Clearly, Favreau should have understood that too. If he's old enough and wise enough and mature enough to write for the president of the United States -- and not just any president but one who seems poised to take words more seriously than any since Abraham Lincoln -- than he's clearly old enough and wise enough and mature enough to avoid getting his picture taken behaving in a way that is embarrassing to him, his boss, the secretary of state -- designate, his family, and, one hopes, a majority of 27-year-old males (though that may be too optimistic.) It's indefensible. But that's still not what's bugging me.
What's bugging me is his intention. He isn't putting his hand on her "chest," as most of the articles and conversations about the picture have euphemistically referred to it. Rather, his hand -- cupped just so -- is clearly intended to signal that he's groping her breast. And why? Surely, not to signal he finds her attractive. Au contraire. It's an act of deliberate humiliation. Of disempowerment. Of denigration.
And it disgusts me. 
It is disgusting.  And good for Dee Dee for speaking out.  Murphy (PUMA Pac) observes:

Every day that Jon Favreau continues to have a job as obama's chief speech writer is ANOTHER day that the office of the Secretary of State is undermined. Every day that the above image is in the news is another day that creeps like Carville and Blitzer can convene all-male panels of sexperts and joke about how fun it is to gang up and sexually assault Hillary Clinton in effigy. (Wolf Blitzer, Alpha Epsilon Pi brother, along with Robert Novak and Jerry Nadler.Carville was a raging frat boy at LSU, where the motto is, "frat hard, frat often.")

We need to amp up our message. Columnists ARE talking about this issue, but they are saying that women's groups have been strangely silent. We know that National NOW and Emily's List are keeping a deafening silence, but the good women at New York and Los Angeles NOW have spoken up. But still, the message is not being received. 

Emily's List won't say a damn word.  You don't get cabinet positions (or more of them) by speaking out.  What about the pathetic Women's Media Center?  They haven't said one word as usual.   Yesterday, they had the nerve to write about human dignity while being silent on Jon Favreau.  Ms. is just as bad with their Feminist Wire that managed to note violence against women has "increased attention in Angola" but fails to raise objections to Favreau and his friend/male lover's attempt to prove they can get it up by (at best) disrepecting women.
Independent journalist John Pilger and Chris Martin won Best Documentary for The War On Democracy at the One World Media Awards and The War on Democracy is now available on DVD.  Groundhog Day is a Harold Ramis film starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell and Pilger references it in his new column (New Statesman):
Obama's slogan is now "continuity".  His secretary of defence will be Robert Gates, who serves the lawless, blood-soaked Bush regime as secretary of defence, which means secretary of war.  (America last had to defend itself when the British invaded in 1812.)  Gates wants no date set for an Iraq withdrawal and "well north of 20,000" troops to be sent to Afghanistan.  He also wants America to build a completely new nuclear arsenal, including "tactical" nuclear weapons that blur the distinction with conventional weapons.
[. . .]
There is more continuity in Obama's appointment of officials who will deal with the economic piracy that brought down Wall Street and impoverished millions.  As in Bill Murray's nightmare, they are the same officials who caused it.  For example, Lawrence Summers will run the National Economic Council.  As treasury secretary, according to the New York Times, he "championed the law that deregulated derivatives, the . . . instruments -- aka toxic assets -- that have spread financial losses [and] refused to heed critics who warned of dangers to come." 
There is logic here.  Contrary to myth, Obama's campaign was funded largely by rapacious capital, such as Citigroup and others responsible for the sub-prime mortgage scandal, whose victims were mostly African Americans and other poor people.
Yes, the greed.  As Elaine noted of the scandal involving who will replace him in the Senate, "I think the whole thing is poetic. Barack's home state governor accused of attempting some form of payment to appoint someone to replace Barack. It's all about greed and what was Barack's campaign run on but greed?  He refused public financing. Broke the pledge on that. He took in overseas donation and has no way to prove that the donations came from US citizens. He allowed individuals to repeatedly break the legal donation limit. The greed that built him could break him and, in fact, it should."  That's Illinois.  In New York, the assumption is that, in January, Hillary Clinton will be confirmed as the Secretary of State and will leave the US Senate.  That will allow the current governor (never elected to that post, as Ruth has pointed out) to appoint someone to serve the remainder of Clinton's Senate term.  Caroline Kennedy wants the Senate seat.  Marie Cocco (Washington Post Writers Group) wonders:
How can Democrats, who ridiculed Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as an inexperienced political wannabe, now embrace the idea of elevating Caroline Kennedy -- who hasn't served a day in public office -- to Hillary Clinton's New York Senate seat? How, indeed, can the same "progressives" who opposed Clinton's election as president because they were repelled by the notion of extending the "Clinton dynasty" now be keen on perpetuating the Kennedy dynasty through an appointment?
As a longtime admirer of Sen. Ted Kennedy, I am embarrassed.
The iconic Massachusetts senator and others in the family are actively promoting John F. Kennedy's daughter -- who famously shunned the gritty political world for the sanctuary of public service through her private endeavors -- to take the Senate seat once occupied by her late uncle, Robert F. Kennedy, and now held by Clinton. A decision on filling the vacancy should Clinton be confirmed as secretary of state is up to New York Gov. David Paterson, who could be forgiven, in moments like this, if he fleetingly wishes that he'd not ascended to the office after predecessor Eliot Spitzer's indiscretions.
What, exactly, is the case to be made for Caroline Kennedy?