Monday, December 15, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement shows its true colors, Bully Boy has his own shoes issues, and more.
Today, Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "The deadlines sound clear enough in the security agreement: U.S. combat troops must be out of Iraqi urban areas by June, and all Americans should withdraw from the country by Dec. 31, 2011.
However, those deadlines have appeared anything but firm to Iraqis over the past week. " Thursday David Morgan and Anthony Boadle's (Reuters) reported, "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." Alsumaria pointed out on Friday, "Al Dabbagh, representing Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki in Washington, said some U.S. forces could be needed for 10 years stressing that the terms of any extended presence would be negotiated between the next Iraqi and US governments in 2011 since the security pact has not tackled this issue. He added that until that time, the number of troops needed and the level of cooperation and support required would be clearer." Clearer? That's all the treaty did? Shocking -- for those not paying attention and/or self-deluding themselves. The news just kept coming over the weekend. Xinhua quoted puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki stating, "What Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh said about Iraqi forces will need ten years to be ready was only his personal view and does not represent the Iraqi government." Stating? Not really. His office issued a statement. al-Maliki said nothing publicly. al-Maliki has a pattern of 'issuing' statements that he then disowns. Over the weekend, AP finally decided to report what al-Dabbagh said Thursday -- when they could run the 'denial' with it -- only they focused so on the denial they couldn't even get the day right of al-Dabbagh's statements (they reported the remarks were made Friday when they were made Thursday). Missy Reid and Michael Christie (Reuters) walked the late comers through:
Dabbagh, on a visit to Washington this week, raised the possibility of some of the 149,000 U.S. troops in Iraq remaining for longer than the date defined by the security pact.
"We do understand that the Iraqi military is not going to get built out in the three years. We do need many more years. It might be 10 years," Dabbagh said at a Pentagon press briefing.
He said that future Iraqi leaders would decide what kind of U.S. presence might be required after 2011.
Iraq's parliament approved the bilateral security agreement setting the end-2011 deadline after fierce and protracted debate. It is scheduled to be put to a referendum next year.
Opponents of the pact, including supporters of anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, have argued the pact gives legitimacy to a destructive foreign occupation and say they do not believe the United States will honour the withdrawal date.
Maliki, a Shi'ite who heads a coalition government, was seen as benefiting the most from the pact.
McClatchy's Ashton added Iraqi reaction to the Thursday statements, "That assertion makes sense to many Iraqi leaders, though they rarely say it in public. Iraq doesn't have a navy or an air force to protect itself. Many view it as America's obligation to improve the country's defense." But the alledged denial wasn't the only thing in the news cycle and, in fact, the top US commander in Iraq knocked the spin out of the statement issued by the puppet's office. Yochi J. Dreazen (Wall St. Journal) explained that despite the treaty 'promising' US forces would withdraw from all Iraqi cities (and to bases) in June, turns out, maybe not: "Gen. Raymond Odierno told reporters here that the U.S. troops assigned to 'joint security stations' inside Iraqi cities like Baghdad would remain in the outposts indefinitely. The bases, which are a key part of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy, house thousands of American personnel across the country. There are well over a dozen such outposts in Baghdad alone.Gen. Odierno, who assumed command in September, explained that the withdrawal provision in the security pact applied only to combat personnel. The U.S. forces assigned to the joint security stations mentor and fight alongside Iraqi troops, so American commanders classify them as training personnel and don't consider them to be covered by the withdrawal language, he said." Odierno was not alone when he he held his press conference, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was with him. That's the current US Secretary of State and the also the one president-elect Barack Obama wants to continue in the job. Sunday Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) repored on Odierno's statement and that Lt Col James Hutton "reiterated" Odierno's statements after the press conference. Bumiller noted Odierno also indicated that the US would attempt to renegotiate the treaty and stated, "Three years is a very long time."
Today Ashton reports that al-Dabaggah issued a statement saying he was misquoted (no, he was not) and trying to back away from his statements as Odierno's statements only further added fuel to the fire with Iraqi MP and Nouri's B.F.F. declaring, "The agreement is clear and it didn't give a space for misunderstanding. This statement is stepping over the limits and authorities of this military leader, and over the constitutional establishments."
Ashton also quotes MP Harith al Obeidi declaring, "Treaties and pacts among nations are obligations and commitments, but this statement gives the matter a question mark on it." And a question mark hovers over al-Maliki. Steven Lee Myers and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) observe:
Although a majority in the Iraqi Parliament approved the agreement, on the street, Iraqis have mixed views. Many distrust any pact made with an occupying power, and while Mr. Bush is appreciated for having overthrown Mr. Hussein, he is widely blamed for the violence that raged in the years after the war, which prompted more than a million Iraqis to flee and killed tens of thousands of civilians.
Still, Mr. Bush's stalwart support for Mr. Maliki -- after an initial period when the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, expressed doubts about him -- has been a bulwark against domestic political forces who sought to topple him.
With the American president's term ending, Iraqi politicians from parties other than Mr. Maliki's have been discussing whether to force the prime minister out with a no-confidence vote. This is not the first time his ouster has been discussed, but with American power in Iraq on the wane and troop numbers beginning to decline in earnest, it seems a more serious threat.
For those attempting to keep track, the Queen of Panhandle Media, Amy Goodman, continues to ignore the issue but she made herself clear when she adopted the White House spin (such as "historic" for the Parliament vote). This is from American Freedom Campaign:
The document parading around as the U.S.-Iraq agreement is not valid under the U.S. Constitution. Its legitimacy is based solely on the silence of lawmakers (and members of the media), who seem to be paralyzed by the fear of having an independent and intelligent opinion. Fortunately, one lawmaker has broken the silence and has acknowledged the truth before everyone's eyes.
It is now time for others, including you, to join their voices with hers.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the pending U.S.-Iraq agreement, decrying the fact that the Iraqi Parliament was being given the opportunity to vote on whether to approve the agreement while Congress was being denied - and was refusing to fight for - the same opportunity.
Well, thanks to our efforts and the leadership of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the U.S. House of Representatives may finally get to voice its opinion on President Bush's unconstitutional usurpation of Congress's legislative power.
Yesterday, Rep. Lee introduced a resolution related to the U.S.-Iraq agreement, inspired in part by AFC's call for a "signing statement" resolution. The primary purpose of this resolution is to express the sense of the House that President Bush does not have the power under the Constitution to negotiate and sign such a far-reaching agreement with another nation without seeking congressional approval of the agreement.
Passage of this resolution -- most likely following re-introduction in January -- will send a message to the Bush administration, the incoming Obama administration, and the rest of the world that the agreement holds no legal weight under U.S. law and will be considered merely advisory by Congress.
In truth, even without passage of this resolution, Congress shall not be bound by its terms. No president can unilaterally commit $10 billion per month in U.S. treasure to keep our troops in another nation. The United States has never been a monarchy or a dictatorship and we are certainly not going to accept any similar kind of system today.
Putting aside the question over whether this agreement is currently binding or not, it is important that as many lawmakers as possible openly reject the constitutionality of the agreement. So please tell your U.S. representative to co-sponsor, support, and vote for Rep. Lee's signing statement resolution (H.Res. 1535) by clicking on the following link
Once you have sent your message, please forward this email widely to friends and family. In the alternative, you can use the "Tell-A-Friend" option on the AFC Web site that will appear after you have sent your message.
Thank you so much for taking action.
American Freedom Campaign Action Fund
Meanwhile a new Washington Post - ABC News poll is out. Michael A. Fletcher and Jon Cohen (Washington Post) report: "Americans are more upbeat about U.S. prospects in
Iraq than at any time in the past five years, but nearly two thirds continue to believe the war is not worth fighting and 70 percent say President-elect Barack Obama should fulfill his campaign promise to withdraw U.S. forces from the country within 16 months, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll." How many would be so upbeat if they knew that Barack did not promise to withdraw all US troops from Iraq? Not asked, not answered. On this issue of withdrawal, UPI reports that Japan "began withdrawing force from Kuwait" today as it ended "its 5-year airlift mission in Iraq".
The Bully Boy of the United States might wish he hadn't landed in Iraq yesterday. Adam Ashton and Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report it was one-shoe, two-shoe thrown at the Bully Boy by Muntathar al Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist, who yelled, "This is a goodbye kiss, you dog." The kisses missed the cheeks and, in fact, the entire target though puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, did attempt to swat one away. Bully Boy would go on to declare, "This is what happens in free societies." And, as if to provide evidence of what a 'free society' Iraq is, the reporters explain:
Another Iraqi journalist yanked Zaidi to the ground before bodyguards collapsed on Zaidi and held him there while he yelled "Killer of Iraqis, killer of children." From the bottom of the pile, he moaned loudly and said "my hand, my hand."
Zaidi was hauled to a separate room, where his cries remained audible for a few moments.
It wasn't clear whether Zaidi was hurt. His employer, Cairo-based Baghdadiyah Television, released a statement late Sunday demanding Zaidi's release from Iraqi custody.
As the White House transcript documents it, Bully Boy was joking and joshing, just having a good old time. "And I'm looking forward to some food" the transcript indicates was a laugh getter -- at least from reporters or "suck ups" -- you decide. He said he was there to sign the Strategic Framework Agreement and to sign "a Security Agreement, sometimes called a Status of Forces Agreement. The agreement provides American troops and Defense Department officials with authorizations and protections to continue supporting Iraq's democracy once the U.N. mandate expires at the end of this year." Bully Boy was spinning big time in the lead up to the shoe tossings, "There is still more work to be done. The war is not yet over -- but with the conclusion of these agreements and the courage of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi troops and American troops and civilian personnel, it is decisively on its way to being won." When you lie like that, maybe it should be considered a win that the sky didn't fall down on you?
Tina Susman and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times, link has text and AP video) report what followed Bully Boy's outlandish claims:
"This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss, you dog," the man said, according to a pool translation.
Seconds later, the journalist hurled his other shoe with similar precision as another Iraqi journalist reached over in an attempt to stop him.
"This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq," he said, according to the translation.
Steven Lee Myers and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) report, "Mr. Maliki's security agents jumped on the man, wrestled him to the floor and hustled him out of the room. They kicked him and beat him until 'he was crying like a woman,' said Mohammed Taher, a reporter for Afaq, a television station owned by the Dawa Party". Reuters notes: "The journalist was leapt on by Iraqi security officials and U.S. secret service agents and dragged from the room screaming and struggling." Alistair Lyon (Reuters) observes international reaction: "He has also won instant fame abroad -- a poem on an Islamist website praises him as 'a hero with a lion's heart' -- although the Iraqi government slated his 'barbaric and ignominious act'."
September 16, 2007 Blackwater slaughter at least 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. Last week, Anwar J. Ali weighed in with observations at the New York Times' blog:
I did not feel anything going to Nisour Square. I consider it something minor. It was only one site among so many where such things happened in Iraq, whether it was Americans or terrorists who did the shooting.
It is only because of media interest that Americans saw the injustice of this particular incident. Otherwise it would have been easily forgotten just like other violence here.
If we concentrated on each incident that happened to Iraqis it would take hundreds of years to bring justice to all that Iraqis have suffered since 2003 -- and maybe will suffer in the future and in the next generation.
I can't deny there is humanitarian justice in the behavior of the Americans in this regard, yet it is also intended to show to the world that the Americans will punish people who committed violations, even if they were Americans.
In fact, in the year after this incident, there were many other incidents, sometimes explosions and at other times killing and assassinations. Many Iraqis were killed. Women, children and men of all ages and professions. Most of them were poor, mostly their only guilt is that they were in the street shopping, or earning a living.
Ali and Katherine Zoepf reported yesterday that the FBI met Saturday with approximately 50 people who either survived the September 16th slaughter or who had family killed or wounded in the attack. The two reporters also provide Iraqis with a forum to speak:
"It's an old case, and I had lost hope," said Jassem Mohammed Hashem, a 29-year-old former policeman who has been on disability since being shot in the head by a Blackwater guard while he stood at his post. "But now it seems the American administration will give us our rights."
Mr. Hashem, who has a divot about half the size of an egg on the right side of his forehead, said that to save his life he had needed to undergo several operations. He still suffers from debilitating headaches, he said, as well as uncontrollable mood swings that have seriously affected his family relationships.
"I am so worried for my children," Mr. Hashem said. "My daughter is 5 and my son is 2 months old. I'm always in a bad mood, and I get very aggressive sometimes. I was never like this before. I lost my health on that day. I lost my job. I'm only 29, but I'm on disability and will probably have to retire."
A woman who identified herself as Umm Ghaith, whose husband, Hammoud Said Attah, a 32-year-old taxi driver, was killed in the shootings, said that until she received a call four days before informing her of the meeting, she had heard nothing about the investigation.
"Till now I don't know what to expect, but I really wish justice will take place," she said at the gathering, accompanied by her six young children and her sister-in-law, whose husband was also killed. "I think we will probably file a suit against Blackwater -- it's the right of my children."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad ("outskirts") car bombing that claimed 3 lives and left thirteen injured. AP reports it was 5 and not three (police officers) and that it was a "suicide truck bomber" (not included in the death toll) and not just a car bombing. AP also notes 1 "female sucide bomber" in Baghdad who took her own life and that of 1 "Awakening" Council member ("Ahmed Khamees, the local commander of the Sons of Iraq volunteer force in Tarmiya") at the door to his home. Reuters places the truck bomber on the "western outskirts of Baghdad" at claiming 9 lives with thirty-one wounded.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 7 family members shot dead in a village outside Mosul. Xinhau reports the slaughter took place "around midnight when gunmen believed to be affiliated to al-Qaida militant stormed a house belong to a family from Yazidi sect in the al-Shimal village near the town of Sinjar, some 180 km west of Mosul, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity." BBC explains that Yazidis are believed to amount to 500,000 worldwide and: "The Yazidis are an ancient, religious sect and there have been a number of attacks on them in Iraq in the past. In August 2007, some 400 people were killed in the Sinjar area in multiple bomb blasts targeting Yazidis." In addition, Reuters notes 1 woman shot dead in Mosul.
Turning to US politics, Paul Street is the author of Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics. and, at Dissident Voice, he notes:
Five weeks away from Obama's inauguration, some progressives are disturbed to learn that his corporate-imperial cabinet picks epitomize what former Clinton administration official and Kissinger Associates Managing Director David J. Rothkopf calls "the violin model: Hold power with the left hand, and play the music with your right" (NYT, November 22, 2008, A1). It bothers a growing number of Obama's liberal backers to learn that, as Wall Street Journal editorial board member Matthew Kaminski notes, "the Obama camp says the future president, who won running from the left, intends to govern from the center" (WSJ, December 6/7, 2008, A8).
"This Wasn't Quite the Change We Pictured," whines the title of a recent Washington Post editorial by leading left-liberal writer David Corn.2
It's long past time for Corn and other "concerned" and "disappointed" Obama liberals to trade in their rose-colored campaign glasses for the demystifying shades donned by the ideology-decoding rebels in John Carpenter's classic left science fiction movie "They Live." The balmy feel-good people's rhetoric of the electoral contest has faded as always before the big chill of corporate-imperial governance.
A little more due diligence research on their candidate's longstanding centrist history and how well it matches the narrow parameters imposed by the American political tradition and party system might have prevented some of the current left and liberal "honeymoaning" (Alexander Cockburn's useful term3) about Obama. For all his claims to be a noble and "pragmatic" reformer "above the fray" of America's imperial plutocracy and "ideological" politics, Obama is no special exception to -- and is in many ways an epitome of -- what Christopher Hitchens called (in his 1999 study of the Bill and Hillary Clinton phenomenon) "the essence of American politics. This essence, when distilled," Hitchens explained, "consists of the manipulation of populism by elitism." Christopher Hitchens, No One Left to Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family (New York: Verso, 2000), pp. 17-18.
It's nothing new. Relying heavily on candidates' repeated promise to restore "hope" to a populace disillusioned by corporate control, corruption, and inequality -- a standard claim of non-incumbent Democratic presidential candidates -- this dark essence of United States political culture goes back further than the corporate-neoliberal era into which Obama came of political age. It is arguably as old the Republic itself, always torn by the rift between democratic promise and authoritarian realities of concentrated wealth and power.