Saturday, April 05, 2008

Dems continue to prepare for Petraeus

Lance Cpl. Margaret McMahon-Reid, 20, and PFC Gearge Kevyn Reid II, 22, have been missing since early this week.
A member of the McMahon family told NBC 7/39 on Thursday that military police said to them earlier in the week that McMahon-Reid's purse and driver's license were still in the couple's Escondido apartment. However, Escondido police on Friday said that a search of their home did not turn up those items. Rather, officials said, all personal items -- including toiletries -- were missing from the home and that all that remained in the residence were household furnishings and the couple's Marine uniforms.
Also on Friday, Escondido police offered a possible motive for their absence.

The above is from KNSD's "Police Believe Missing Marines Are AWOL" (text and video). Speaking of text and . . . Joe Biden gave the Democratic radio response today. This was the conclusion to a week where he chaired hearings on Iraq. Thursday was more academic but Wednesday explored the issue of withdrawal at length. This is his "Senator Joe Biden Delivers the Democratic Radio Address" (Democratic Party, text and audio)

"Good morning. I'm Joe Biden, Democratic Senator from Delaware and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In January 2007, President Bush announced the surge of an additional 30,000 American forces into Iraq. Next week, the President is expected to tell the American people what comes next. It's an important moment for America's future.
"The purpose of the surge was to bring violence in Iraq down so that its leaders could come together politically. Violence has come down, but the Iraqis have not come together. The country remains terribly divided among Sunni, Shi'a and Kurds. There is little evidence the Iraqis will settle their differences peacefully any time soon.
"Our military has done a heroic job in bringing violence down since last summer. But even these gains are relative. Violence is just getting back to levels we saw in 2005 -- when 846 Americans lost their lives and 5,945 were wounded. Iraq is still an incredibly dangerous place -- and very far from normal.
"Despite this reality, the President is expected to announce that when the surge ends, we will not be in a position of drawing down American forces. There could be no clearer acknowledgment from the President himself that the surge has not succeeded in achieving its stated purpose--namely, moving Iraq toward the day it can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself in peace.
"So, where are we after the surge? Back to where we were before it started. With 140,000 troops in Iraq -- and no end in sight. The best that can be said is we've gone from drowning in Iraq to treading water. That's better, but we can't keep doing it without exhausting ourselves.
"Every extra day we stay in Iraq with 140,000 troops, that's exactly what we're doing. And the price we're paying keeps getting steeper:
The continued loss of the lives and limbs of our soldiers -- every day;
The emotional and economic strain on our military families due to repeated, extended tours – lasting up to 15 months;
The drain on our Treasury -- $12 billion every month that we could be spending on housing, education or healthcare here at home;
The impact on the readiness of our armed forces -- tying down so many troops that we don't have any leftover to deal with a new emergency;
The inability to send enough troops to the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan -– the real central front in the war on terror;
And finally: the damage done to America's standing in the world;"I believe the President has no strategy for success in Iraq. His plan is to muddle through -- and hand the problem off to his successor. Our troops and their families deserve better than that. We owe them a strategy worthy of their sacrifice.
"We Democrats understand that this war must end so that America can regain the credibility to lead around the world and the flexibility to meet our challenges here at home. That's what the American people want -- and it's what America's security needs. Thank you for listening."

The Democrats in Congress are preparing for US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen David Petraeus' testimonies which begin Tuesday and will attempt to sell the American people on the idea that there is 'progress' in Iraq when the reality is that, five years later, there is no progress.
This week Margaret Kimberly offers a news quiz. From her "Twenty Questions" (Black Agenda Report):

3. Did Iraqi police in Basra switch sides and join the Mahdi army when ordered to fight them?

4. When informed by a reporter that two-thirds of Americans think the Iraq war is "not worth fighting" Dick Cheney replied:
"Only two-thirds?"
"Let impeachment begin."

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Friday, April 4, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the Iraqi refugee crisis continues, al-Maliki's evaluations less than glowing, Barack Obama says one thing on Iraq in public and apparently another thing in private, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  War veteran Chad Hetman writes The Daily Targum to explain, "People should be asking if ROTC instructors are teaching cadets that it is their legal duty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to refuse and challenge unlawful orders. Since the illegal war began, only one soldier has had the sense and courage to do his duty, Lieutenant Ehren Watada. The military is supposed to be politically neutral, but not legally neutral and almost all troops never read or understand the Constitution that they blindly swear to 'Support and Defend Against ALL Enemies both Foreign And DOMESTIC'."  Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq (June 2006).  In February 2007, Watada was court-martialed.  Judge Toilet (aka John Head) halted the court-martial in order to give the prosecution a do-over and he halted the court-martial over defense objection.  Double-jeopardy should prevent Watada from being prosecuted/persecuted again; however, the US military holds out hopes of convincing a judge that the Constitution -- though members of military swear to uphold it -- does not actually apply to the military.
Weeks before the court-martial took place, Ave Diaz and Lance Holter (Haleakala Times) spoke with Watada who shared these expectations:
I certainly expect the army to make an example out of my stand and what I'm speaking against. Certainly they want to set the example and I think it's very dangerous because the example or message they are trying to send is that when you join the military you do what you are told -- it doesn't matter what your beliefs are, you do what you are told and that is a very dangerous message to send because who wants to join the military if you are going to be forced to do (something) -- regardless of whatever you believe in your own conscience -- and I think that will lead to a mass exodus of soldiers leaving the military because of that and also it will prevent a lot of potential recruits from joining the military.
And that apparently remains the goal of the US military which refuses to discharge Watada (whose service contract ended December 2006) and holds out hopes of subverting the Constitution by court-martialing him again.  Since his contract expired, Watada has reported for duty each day.  He continues to do so.  Thank You Lt. Watada is calling for: "No New Court Martial! Dismiss All Charges! Release Lt. Watada with an Honorable Discharge!"
Some war resisters are attempting to be granted safe harbor in Canada.  The Canadian Parliament will debate a measure this month on that issue.  You can make your voice heard. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum. 

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).  
Next Tuesday, Gen David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker begin their attempts to sell Congress -- and therefore the American people -- on the notion that "progress" exists and thrives in Iraq.  In anticipation of the expected snow job, Congress has attempted to lay down some guidance this week.  Most successful was Wendesday's hearing by the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee where retired Gen William Odom explained the escalation ("surge") didn't work, was never going to work, explained the problems with paying off thugs who are 'loyal' for coin, and much more.  Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee continued to explore Iraq and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a press conference on Iraq that was supposed to outline the message but instead she got sidetracked (with her travels, her candidate of choice, etc.) -- US House Rep Rahm Emanuel managed to salvage the conference.
If the snow job is blinded by realities this time, credit will go to those like Marilou Johanek (Toledo Blade) who've shown what a working press is:
SO MUCH for Iraq's "defining moment." That's what the "Decider" called last week's Iraqi offensive against Shiite militants in Basra. It was a defining moment all right, one that underscored how worthless Iraqi's army and "unity" government are five years into the war.        
Interesting how muted Washington has been about the whole affair lately. Initially, the Bush Administration scrambled to put a positive spin on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's ill-advised and ill-prepared government crackdown in the country's second largest city. Only after Iraqi security forces got a "thumpin" -- to put it in George W. Bush's vernacular -- and the prime minister, who had vowed to remain in Basra for a "decisive and final battle" against the militias, backed down after Iran brokered a cease-fire, did the administration start to disown the debacle.
And include  The Villager  whose  editorial, "Dems must find their spine on Iraq," spelled it out clearly: "The so-called surge is not "working" and it has nothing to do with the heightened violence last week. Even with the reduced level of violence against Americans in the last few months, we were still losing about a soldier a day. Many more troops are being severely wounded with crippling physical and mental injuries. Iraqi civilians continue to be killed in far greater numbers. The surge's intent was to prompt the Iraqis into making political compromises in order to govern themselves. Even the Bush administration admits there has been little progress on that front. How will the Iraqis ever be able to police themselves if Bush and John McCain continue to suggest we are willing to stay indefinitely -- a century, if necessary?"  The assault on Basra was a War Crime.  It was also a moment that revealed to the entire world that the US installed puppet Nouri al-Maliki was incompentent and unsupported by the Iraqi people. 
He made ultimatums and then had to back down because he lacks the support to carry those out.  This week he showed up attempting to save face after Moqtada al-Sadr's call for a stand-down (via talks between members of Iraq's parliament and Iran) brought the peace al-Maliki can never provide.  He also begged for resistance fighters to return at least 50 government vehicles they had seized during the fighting -- but he calls it a 'win.'  And he and his White House handlers learn nothing from the experience.  AFP reports that Thursday he was boasting of more assaults on al-Sadr's followers and repeating his talk of "outlaws" and how he doesn't make deals with him.  Having yet again talked big, he got sleep and -- maybe he had scary nightmares -- showed up today with a different tune.  Reuters reported this morning that he was now saying turn in weapons and everyone can get along!  He'll even "grant amnesty from prosectuion"!  Retuers observed, "The statement appeared to soften Maliki's position from Thursday, when at a news conference he threatened a crackdown on Sadr's strongholds in Baghdad."  Meanwhile Matt Schofield (Kansas City Star) wonders, "So, we're almost five years from the day Baghdad fell, and it's time to ask: Who is in control of Iraq?"

Turning to the topic of Iraqi refugees.  Tuesday the UNHCR's Jennifer Pagonis broke down the latest figures on the internally displaced noting that "it is estimated that over 2.77 million people are currently displaced inside the country.  Of these, 1.2 million were displaced before 2006 and more than 1.5 million were displaced in 2006 and 2007."  Of these, "over 1 million cannot access regular income.  Around 300,000 individuals have no access to clean water and are in need of legal aid to enable them to access other basic services."  On external refugees, Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) observes, "More than two million Iraqi refugees are struggling to survive outside Iraq, the bulk of them in neighboring Jordan and Syria. . . . Jordan and Syria can't afford to keep them, but they can't go home and are running out of money.  Yet the desperate plight of Iraq's refugees isn't one the president wants to highlight -- because it underlines how tenuous the situation remains in Iraq."  That's putting it mildly.  Relief Web notes this from the Christian Reformed Church in North America, "Early last year the U.S. government agreed to resettle 7,000 refugees by February 2008, giving preference to those at greatest risk of violence.  Today, only 2,000 Iraq refugees have entered the United States, with nearly 12,000 more awaiting approval."  That should read: "still waiting approval."  Dropping back to the Feb. 21st snapshot:
The total number of Iraqi refugees accepted by the US in 2007 was 1,608.  In the February 5th snapshot, the US State Department's laughable press confrence was noted. It featured Homeland Security's Senior Advisor to the Secretary on Iraqi Refugee Issues Lori Scialabba, The State Dept's Deputy Assistant for Consular Affairs Tony Edson, and the Senior Coordinator on Iraqi Refugee Issues Ambassador James Folely with a lot of excuses.  CNN Elise Labott and Bloomberg News' Janice Zacharia had questions (and numbers) the State Department wasn't expecting which led to such claims by Foley as the State Dept had never said it would have 7,000 settled by the 2007 fiscal year.  Finally, he offered "I came on board in September" (the end of the 2007 fiscal year) and that apparently means that he can't be updated on what's come before. 
The crisis is not 'new,' it's not something unexpected.  It remains something the US refuses to address.  Simone Campbell (The Mountain Mail) notes, "Traveling throughout Lebanon and Syria recently with several religious sisters and staff members from Catholic Relief Services, I witnessed lives of desperation and quiet stories of hope.  Our visits with Iraqi families, Christian and Muslim, humanize numbing statistics staggering in scope."  She notes are:
Among them is Dovid, a gentle Christian man so traumatized by torture at the hands of a militia in Iraq that his body constantly shakes. He struggled to hold steady for a picture we took with his wife and 10 children who live crowded into one room in a poor Beirut neighborhood.       
There is Leila, a Shiite Muslim who had a successful career in nuclear medicine in Iraq until she and her father were threatened because they worked with a U.S. company on hospital construction.    
Her father sent her to safety in Lebanon; a few months later, he was executed as he walked home from his job.
She is haunted by rumors her father's enemies are searching for her.
Sheryl Kornman (Tuscon Citizen) speaks with the US State Dept's Barbara Day who attempts to stamp a happy face on things like refugees "remain near their countries in refugee camps or in cities hoping to one day return to their homes."  The State Dept wants them to return.  It looks better for the administration if that happens.  But the United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent have noted that it is not safe for them to return.  Homeland Security's Barbara Strack also spins for Kornman explaining that those who have "provided any money or goods to terrorists" may get exemptions -- since the US is defining a family who pays the ransom for a family member kidnapped as having "provided any money or goods to terrorists."  In the current issue of Harper's Magazine (April 2008), Deborah Campbell debunks that nonsense and other policies and attitudes preventing the Iraqi refugees from getting assistance in "Exodus: Where will Iraq go next?" (pp. 50 -56; link may only work for subscribers to the magazine).  Campbell describes the crisis:

The result of this societal collapse has been the largest exodus in the Middle East since the Palestinian refugee crisis of 1948.  One fifth of the population have fled their homes.  In addition to the 2.5 million people known to be displaced within Iraq, a further 2.5 million have left the country.  Several hundred thousand have made it to Egypt, the Gulf States, Iran, Turkey or Yemen, and Jordan hosts another half million.  But it is Syria that has taken on the largest burden.
She shares the stories of many Iraqi refugees in Syria such as Aisha who provides English clases for free to other Iraqis each weekend and left Iraq after being kidnapped and the ransom being $50,000 and leave Iraq immediately There's Saif who was an intelligence officer but was among the many to lose their jobs when Paul Bremer (with White House approval) disbanded the Iraqi military.  A rocket attack on his home left his wife paralyzed and his days in Syria are mainly spent "feeding and bathing his wife". A daughter was killed in the attack.  Another daughter badly burned with no money for reconstructive surgey and a son was kidnapped "and tortured with electric cables to the head -- now he babbled incoherently and was violent unless drugged."  In Lebanaon, she meets Iraqi refugees win jail such as the man trying to get his family "to Europe on passports he had pruchased" and was now told he would only be released if he agreed to go back to Baghdad.  These are among the many stories she shares and she also charts the routes of Iraq.  She notes falsehoods of The Myth of the Great Return (including that the bussed and bought featured one family that was kidnapped immediately upon arriving in Baghdad) and explains that "the plight of former U.S. employees, particularly translators, remains the sum total of the discussion of the crisis within American media and political circles.  The result is that, although more than 30,000 Iraqis were resettled in the United States after the 1991 Gulf War, only 3,775 Iraqis were granted entry between the beginning of the 2003 invasion and the end of January 2008." 
As the US government ignores the crisis they created, criticism also goes to the United Kingdom.  Jamie Doward (The Observer) reports that 50 Iraqi refugees were forcibly taken back to Iraq, to a 'safe' area (Irbil): "The British government claims the region is safe, but human rights campaigners warn it is becoming increasingly dangerous.  It has emerged that one failed asylum seeker, Solyman Rashid, who was returned from Britain after his appeal was rejected, was killed by a car bomb in Kirkuk, northern Iraq, last September."  Speaking in Amman, Jordan today, John Holmes, United Nation's Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, explained the crisis for all Iraqis and, of internally displaced ones, that that "have little or no access to proper health care, food assistance, sanitation and other services"  which is why the UN has issued a call for $265 million in donations and currently is $60 million short of that figure.
UPI reports a movement in Germany's religious communities to lobby "for sancturay in the country for Iraqi Christians" and asking for "long-term asylum for 25,000 to 30,000 Christians". In the United States, David Zucchino (Los Angeles Times) reports, attorney Robert Dekelaita is attempting to do the same thing:
Over the last decade, DeKelaita has obtained asylum for hundreds of Iraqi Christians threatened with deportation. He travels the U.S. to counsel distraught, uprooted men and women who have fled religious persecution in Iraq.

But each new grant of asylum leaves DeKelaita feeling conflicted; his efforts inadvertently contribute to the slow dissolution of the once-vibrant Christian community in Iraq.

"My heart is really wedded to the idea that they should be safe and secure in their own homeland in Iraq," DeKelaita, 45, said inside his law office in Skokie, Ill., near Chicago. "What I'm doing is temporary. That's how I justify it to myself -- that they will one day all go back home safely to their homeland."

Repressed under Saddam Hussein, Iraq's Christian population has been decimated since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Muslim extremists have murdered priests and burned churches and Christian-owned shops and homes. Priests in Iraq estimate that fewer than 500,000 Christians remain, about a third of the number as before 2003.
Turning to some of the violence that's created the refugee crisis . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports mortar attacks on the Green Zone, a Diyala Province bombing at a funeral that claimed 16 lives and left 29 wounded. CBS and AP report: "The attacker detonated an explosive vest in the midst of the mourners attending the funeral for a Sunni policeman who had been shot dead on Thursday night, said and officer who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak."  Reuters reports a Mussayab roadside bombing claimed the lives of 3 police officers (two more wounded).  Reuters also notes a US helicopter attack in Basra that had multiple "casualties" according to eyewitnesses.
Reuters reports a member of the "Awakening" Council was shot dead outside Samarra.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Meanwhile Kevin Naff (Washington Blade) reports on keeping someone in the closet even in death.  Major Alan Rogers died in Iraq on Januray 27th and was buried March 14th. 
But the mainstream media accounts of his death omitted any reference to his sexual orientation. These were not benign omissions. The Washington Post, in particular, worked overtime to excise any mention of Rogers' sexual orientation. It did not even report his work for AVER. Several of Rogers' gay friends told the Blade that they were interviewed by a Post reporter at the funeral, but their memories were not included in the paper's coverage.
As offensive, possibly more, is the report Steve Inskeep (Morning Edition) which offered such gems such as this "Rogers had no wife or child to take away the flag that draped his coffin, so soldiers folded the flag and gave it to his cousin."  Rogers had no wife?  Why was that?  NPR worked overtime to avoid telling the truth and was selective in what they aired.  Not only did the media attempt to deny who Rogers was, Chris Johnson (Washington Blade) reports someone at the Pentagon recently attempted to remove references to Rogers' sexuality from the Wikipeida entry on him.
On the topic of veterans, US Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign announces the creation of Veterans for Hillary Leadership Committee which has "21 distinguished veterans from the Keystone State" and "will spearhead the campaign's efforts to reach out to Pennsylvania's veterans and inform them about Hillary's record of fighting for the men and women who have worn our nation's uniform.  Congressmen John Murtha and Joe Sestak will co-chair the committee."  Serving on the committee:
  • Larry Babitts, Boiling Springs, US Army
  • Ron Byrd, Tobyhanna, US Army**
  • Russell Canevari, Jessup, US Army
  • Ed Cemic, Sr., Johnstown, US Army
  • Kathy Cullinane, Scranton, USAF
  • Hal Donahue, Scranton, USAF
  • Thomas Dougherty, Dunmore, US Army
  • General Mike Dunn, Davidsville, US Army
  • Glen Embree, Mt. Pleasant Township, Navy
  • Greg Erosenko, Monroeville, US Army
  • Wy Gowell, Clark Summit, USAF
  • John Hugya, Hollsopple, USMC
  • Christin Joltes, Johnstown, USAF
  • Jim Kull, Uniondale, US Army
  • Joe Long, Bethlehem, USAF
  • William McCool, Levittown, Navy
  • Mike Miskell, Scranton, Navy
  • Phyllis Reinhardt, Scranton, US Army
  • General Gerald Sajer, East Berlin, US Army
  • Joseph Tully, Scranton, Navy
  • Jeffrey Voice, Philadelphia, US Army
**"Ron" is my guess.  The first half of the name is left off the list.  If that guess is incorrect on my part, my apologies and we'll correct it if it's pointed out.
At ZNet, Phyllis Bennis attempts to interject a little honesty into the discussions of Barack Obama: He Pees Peace and Rainbows.  Naturally, Tom-Tom Hayden is having none of it.  Bennis notes that Obama does not need to "'clarify' his own position on counter-insurgency or troop withdrawal, but to CHANGE his position."  Those are fighting words to Bambi Groupies, Phyllis.  And Tom-Tom shows up singing "Songs to Aging Children come, Aging children, I am one."  Trying aging fool -- and for the record, Tom-Tom, I didn't need to poll behind your back to make that call.  Tom-Tom's humping Bambi like his found another cash cow, chattering on about the 2002 anti-war speech (that no one heard in real time and could be 'expanded' today -- the same way recordings of it were 'recreated'), "his 16 month combat troop withdrawal plan, his refusal to support Bush on Iran's Revolutionary Guard" blah, blah, blah.  Reality check.  Bambi didn't refuse to support Bully Boy on that measure.  He didn't show up for the vote.  Patricia J. Williams has tried that LIE as well.  Let's stick to the real world, Tom-Tom.  In addition, as William M. Arkin (Washington Post) observed at the end of March, Obama's anti-Iran talk now "sounds like current White House policy." 
The 16-month is the most hilarious.  Showing the same dedication to denial that got him kicked out of the commune in California, Tom-Tom wants to pretend Samantha Power never happened.  Power told the BBC -- while still Bambi's chief foreign policy advisor -- that the 16-month pledge . . . really wasn't a pledge.  If Barack made it into the White House, he'd decide what to do about Iraq then.  Of all days to look like a sap, Tom-Tom picked the wrong-wrong one.  Eli Lake (New York Sun) reports:
A key adviser to Senator Obama's campaign is recommending in a cofidential paper that America keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as of late 2010, a plan at odds with the public pledge of the Illinois senator to withdraw combat forces from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.
The paper, obtained by The New York Sun, was written by Colin Kahl for the center-left Center for a New American Security. In "Stay on Success: A Policy of Conditional Engagement," Mr. Kahl writes that through negotiations with the Iraqi government "the U.S. should aim to transition to a sustainable over-watch posture (of perhaps 60,000--80,000 forces) by the end of 2010 (although the specific timelines should be the byproduct of negotiations and conditions on the ground)."
Mr. Kahl is the day-to-day coordinator of the Obama campaign's working group on Iraq. A shorter and less detailed version of this paper appeared on the center's Web site as a policy brief.
No fool like an old fool, Tom-Tom.  Sarah Sewall is the 'brain' behind the US counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq.  She advises which campaign?  Barack Obama's.  At some point the PATHETIC are going to have to stop lying -- they are a danger to themselves and others.  As Doug Henwood (ZNet) observes -- no fan of either Hillary or Barack, "And despite the grand claims of enthusiasts, he doesn't really have a movement behind him -- he's got a fan club.  How does a fan club hold a candidate accountable?"  As Tom-Tom demonstrates repeatedly, they don't.

You rock. That's why Blockbuster's offering you one month of Blockbuster Total Access, No Cost.

Other Items

I was glad to read about another walkout at Rutgers. While it's obvious that cutting class has no impact on our government, students kept a light shining on one of our government's many crimes that has become ignored, normalized and even glorified by many.
The illegal war of aggression based on lies and deception that dishonors and disgraces the U.S. and unites the world in hating us for an ongoing 5-year crime, makes Sept. 11 look like a bake sale. In addition to killing over a million people, wounding and terrorizing millions more, the illegal war violates the U.S. Constitution, the UN Charter, the Nuremberg Principles, the Geneva Convention and International Humanitarian law.
U.S. troops were betrayed, exploited, lied to, conned and coerced into following unlawful orders to take part in oppressing, terrorizing and killing people who were never a threat, with over 4,000 troops getting killed in the process and thousands more wounded.
American extremists howl of "winning" by means of a Nazi-like victory through domination, however, the illegal war-occupation is a global crime and a crime cannot be won, it can only be stopped. The people and mentality that created and carried out the illegal war can never be the solution to the problems it has created.
It shouldn't be discussed whether ROTC had classes during the walkout. People should be asking if ROTC instructors are teaching cadets that it is their legal duty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to refuse and challenge unlawful orders. Since the illegal war began, only one soldier has had the sense and courage to do his duty, Lieutenant Ehren Watada. The military is supposed to be politically neutral, but not legally neutral and almost all troops never read or understand the Constitution that they blindly swear to "Support and Defend Against ALL Enemies both Foreign And DOMESTIC".
Supporting the rule of law is not a left vs. right or Democrat vs. Republican issue; it's about doing what is ethically and legally right. On the other hand, the flag wavers who scream "freedom" are often the biggest enemies of the US Constitution, liberty and the rule of law. And any authority that violates the rule of law has no validity.
If students are going to make a positive impact on campus, they have to figure out what they stand for and then take on the sources of illegal war, ignorance, fascism, etc. along with apathy. If true "higher education" is rejected, abandoned or negligently blundered within a university, especially by those who have the most likelihood of being part of aforementioned crimes, then the international accusations of the USA being a rogue state runs to the heart of our country.

Chad Hetman is a Rutgers Alumni and US Army Infantry Veteran, Captain. He enlisted in the NJ National Guard and was commissioned as an officer through Rutgers ROTC program.

The above is Chad Hetman's "War vet commends Walk Out" (Daily Targum). [CORRECTION ADDED APRIL 7TH: Chad Hetman is not a war veteran and does not present himself as such. The paper made a mistake. Hetman is a US Army Veteran and the paper's headline should have noted that and not that he is a "War vet." Again, Hetman does not claim and has never claimed to be a war veteran. The paper made a mistake. He is attempting to get the paper to correct the error. This correction will be noted in the April 8th snapshot.] Billy noted the above and noted that Watada's remains at risk of another court-martial but "the press long ago stopped caring." That pretty much sums it up.

What Panhandle Media does care about is proving how stupid they can be. Chief among them, of course, is the non-stop joke that is The Nation. Randi Rhodes is suspended. Cedric and Wally have covered it humorously (here, here, here and here). Carolyn (Make Them Accountable) notes it here. Susan UnPC (No Quarter) notes it here. Taylor Marsh offers a roundup (including Geraldine Ferraro's remarks) here. VastLeft (Corrente) notes it here.

The Nation never turned a profit (and depended upon begging) until recently. Today, they aren't overly concerned that they've bled more subscribers in the last three years than ever before. To them, it's always just beg for more money.

So they're framing it as 'free speech.' It's not about free speech. Randi Rhodes went to San Francisco to an Air America Radio event and proceeded to call Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro "wh--es" (sometimes prefaced with the f-word). It's not about free speech.

Air America Radio does not and has never existed for free speech. AAR exists to elect Democrats. That's the reality. It is not left radio and they made that clear before they ever went on air. Their management has changed repeatedly, each time with another cry for money. They struggle more today than ever. Randi Rhode's 'free' speech does not trump the network. She knew full well what she was getting into all that time ago. And had no problem then because AAR had no greater Clintonista than Rhodes.

AAR was started to influence elections in the same way right-wing talk radio does. That has been the pitch repeatedly -- no matter who was in management -- when they ask for big money donations. In 2004, when they didn't think they were doing that well, they stated it couldn't go under before the election -- that was their appeal for big donations. 2004 was actually one of their stronger years in retrospect (and had they focused on the streaming model, they wouldn't have had half the problems they ended up having).

Rhodes is an Obama supporter as are most on air personalities at Air America Radio. That didn't bother AAR. Too much. As the complaints got louder -- as they should -- it was something new management was wondering about. (The Democratic Party is split between Hillary and Barack. How can a 'national' radio network aimed at Democrats afford to write off half the audience?)

What did bother AAR was Rhodes' trashy mouth. It bothers them because they still need big funding. It bothers them because it goes against the whole point of starting AAR. The nonsense Randi Rhodes offered could be heard from the likes of Rush, et al (though they may or may not have used the f-word). AAR was created to combat that nonsense. Now Rhodes serves it up.

It makes it that much harder for the struggling AAR to drum up funds. It is offensive, it is appalling. Again, AAR was never about "free speech." It was never a left network. Rachel Maddow is a little War Hawk who tilts slightly to the left. The anti-war voices left the weekday schedule long, long ago. (And were never that numerous to begin with.) AAR never attempted to empower listeners, it was always a pipeline for the Democratic Party. Rhodes had an outburst that seriously hurts AAR and that's why she was suspended.

Reality is that AAR and Rhodes need to part ways. The rumors circulating around Rhodes for the last few months are alarming. Her "I was assaulted!" followed by "I fell" nonsense alarmed many as they felt her troubles were going public. Her own studio (in Florida) was a must because people didn't want to be around her.

And here's the thing, they haven't seen anything yet. It is April of a presidential election year. Flashing back to 2004 gives them a good indication of where they are headed with Rhodes. It was Rhodes who bought into the tabloids (and right-wing cry) of "Protestors stay home!" It was Rhodes who used her program to scream and snarl that she didn't want people protesting the RNC convention in "my city." It was Rhodes who repeated all the frothing nonsense that anarchists were planning to descend upon NYC and destroy the city. She repeated it not for one day or even for one week. She devoted whole hours to that nonsense week after week.

There's also that Patti Smith issue which shocked the original management (and should have). Patti was in the studio to tape a show with Steve Earle. She didn't know Randi Rhodes. She hadn't agreed to go on Randi's program. As usual, Randi was playing boo-hoo city about how she couldn't get any guests. Poor Randi, poor Randi. Patti took pity on her and agreed to go on live with Randi as soon as her show started. That was Patti Smith doing a favor for Randi, a favor for someone she didn't even know.

They went on air. Rhodes spoke about Horses (Patti's rock classic) for a few minutes and then went to politics. Patti Smith is left. She's not kind of, she's not sort of. She's left. Rhodes wanted to know who Patti was supporting and Patti spoke favorably about Ralph Nader. Rhodes tore into her -- on air -- told her she was stupid, told her she didn't know her facts (in terms of facts stated on air, Patti knew what she was talking about, Rhodes didn't). She was screaming at Patti Smith and it was offensive to hear. Patti tried to be polite and offered that they could have a conversation but let her finish speaking. Rhodes wouldn't let her finish. Every time Rhodes came up for air and Patti started to speak, around the fourth word, Randi would begin screaming at her, hurling abuse at her.

Repeating, Patti didn't know Rhodes, she'd never met her before. Rhodes played her "No one ever comes on my show" pity trip and Patti agreed to go on air, live, with Rhodes. Her thanks for that was to be screamed at, shouted at, told she was "an idiot," made fun of, mocked and just abused non-stop.

Patti softly stated that if they weren't going to talk, she was going to end the interview. Rhodes continued screaming at her, blaming Patti for the 2000 election, on and on. Then Patti left and Rhodes continued her abuse. She informed listeners that Patti had just left and continued abusing Patti. She said you shouldn't come on her show if you don't know your facts. (Apparently Rhodes is the only one on that show who is permitted not to know the facts.) She ripped into Patti on and on. It was embarrassing. It was offensive. Upper management heard complaints non-stop from donors.

That's what's in store. Rhodes cannot censor herself. Rhodes has serious issues and AAR and she need to part ways because what happened is only going to get worse as the election looms closer.

Her 'free' speech is not worth the network going under. She wants to sink her own ship, that's her business. But AAR has teetered all along and since becoming Obama Central, they've had even more difficulty raising funds. They are losing listeners (which is why the NYC outlet now plays informercials during the day). They can't afford Randi Rhodes' nonsense. She attacked Hillary and Ferraro. It's unacceptable in AAR's planned model.

She thought she could get away with the nonsense. For her to get away with it puts AAR at risk. That's why she was suspended. Her past history indicates that as a presidential election gets closer, she only becomes more unhinged. The smartest thing to do is to cut her off. It's unnacceptable, it offends donors (I'm talking big money donors) and it offends the Democratic Party.

Trina notes this from Paul Krugman's "Voodoo Health Economcics" (New York Times) where Krugman's noting Elizabeth Edwards' remarks about the healthcare proposals by Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama:

Indeed, while Mrs. Edwards focused her criticism on Mr. McCain, she also made it clear that she prefers Hillary Clinton's approach -- "Sen. Clinton's plan is a great plan" -- to Barack Obama's. The Clinton plan closely resembles the plan for universal coverage that John Edwards laid out more than a year ago. By contrast, Mr. Obama offers a watered-down plan that falls short of unviersality, and it would have higher costs per person covered.
Worse yet, Mr. Obama attacked his Democratic rivals' health plans using conservative talking points about choice and the evil of having the government tell you what to do. That's going to make it hard -- if he is the nominee -- to refute Mr. McCain when he makes similar arguments on behalf of such things as prviatizing veterans' care.

Marcus notes Howard Wolfson's "HUBdate: Ringing" (

Ringing: The campaign released a new 30-second television ad statewide across Pennsylvania. "Ringing" highlights Hillary’s readiness to be Commander-in-Chief of the economy on Day One. Sen. McCain "just said the government shouldn’t take any real action on the housing crisis. He’d let the phone keep ringing." Watch here.

Tonight on The Tonight Show: Hillary will appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Strong on the Economy: At yesterday’s jobs sum

Ringing: The campaign released a new 30-second television ad statewide across Pennsylvania. "Ringing" highlights Hillary's readiness to be Commander-in-Chief of the economy on Day One. Sen. McCain "just said the government shouldn’t take any real action on the housing crisis. He’d let the phone keep ringing." Watch here.

Tonight on The Tonight Show: Hillary will appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Strong on the Economy: At yesterday's jobs summit, Hillary outlined her insourcing agenda that provides $7 billion in tax incentives and investments for firms creating jobs in America. Read the plan here. Read more and more.

Big Change: USA Today’s "Clinton's goals for economy? Big change" details Hillary's plans for the economy given that "there is still time for policymakers to avert a lengthy and punishing downturn." Read more.

In Case You Missed It: Hillary appeared on CNBC’s "Mad Money with Jim Cramer." Watch here.

Swing State Lead: A new Quinnipiac poll shows Hillary beating McCain in key swing states. In Florida, she leads McCain 44-42 while Obama trails McCain by 9 points. In Ohio, Hillary leads McCain 48-39 while Obama is only ahead of McCain by 1. Read more.

For the Long Run: "Hang in there, Hillary...This Democratic presidential race is much too close - and you’d disappoint way too many people - if you let a bunch of party hacks and hand-wringers force you out now." Read more.

Active In The Tar Heel State: North Carolina For Hillary announced the grand opening of its state headquarters in Raleigh. Read more.

Previewing Today: Hillary hosts a "Hillary Live" fundraising event in Beverly Hills, CA.

A Tribute To Dr. King: On Friday, Hillary visits Memphis, TN to pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in remembrance of the 40th anniversary of his assassination. She released a video inviting her supporters to submit testimonials about the impact Dr. King's work has had on their lives. View here.

On Tap: Hillary will attend the North Dakota Democratic NPL State Convention in Grand Forks, ND on Friday and will be campaigning in Oregon on Saturday.

Added: Rhodes appeared at what was promoted by the local station as an AAR event; however, an e-mailer notes it was also a Barack event which means Obama needs to issue a statement since Rhodes was using her foul mouth to represent him.

SOLD OUT: An Evening with Randi Rhodes (Obama supporter) (Meeting)

Come join other Bay Area Obama supporters for an evening with Air America host Randi Rhodes!

She was quieter in her support earlier in the primary season, but this week Randi Rhodes has been on fire with her passion for Obama (and disappointment/anger with his opponent). Today (3/7), she spent nearly her whole show urging people to get to Pennsylvania or to call Pennsylvania on behalf of Senator Obama.

Let's show her some Bay Area love and have a chance to get together socially as well. Spend your afternoon phonebanking and then join us (in Obamawear of course) for a great evening. Doors open at 5:30 pm, event is at 6:00 pm.

This event is $5 at the door, and you sign-up in advance via Green 960 radio station's website.

After the event, we can all head to a place in the neighborhood for drinks and organizing for winning Pennsylvania, the nomination and the White House.

Again, she was representing both. AAR has suspended her. Barack Obama's campaign needs to apologize. It was unacceptable behavior. Link goes to Obama site and thanks to the visitor who e-mailed to note that.

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A puppet can't learn new tricks

SO MUCH for Iraq's "defining moment." That's what the "Decider" called last week's Iraqi offensive against Shiite militants in Basra. It was a defining moment all right, one that underscored how worthless Iraqi's army and "unity" government are five years into the war.
Interesting how muted Washington has been about the whole affair lately. Initially, the Bush Administration scrambled to put a positive spin on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's ill-advised and ill-prepared government crackdown in the country's second largest city. Only after Iraqi security forces got a "thumpin" -- to put it in George W. Bush's vernacular -- and the prime minister, who had vowed to remain in Basra for a "decisive and final battle" against the militias, backed down after Iran brokered a cease-fire, did the administration start to disown the debacle.
Suddenly gone from its rhetoric were any references to defining moments "in the history of a free Iraq" or previous puffery that the administration regarded Basra as a grand test of the Iraqi Security Forces' strength and the prime minister's resolve. There were no further elaborations on the President's earlier certainty that "normalcy is returning to Iraq."
Nope. Soon word began to trickle out - off the record, of course - from administration officials disclaiming responsibility for Mr. al-Maliki's failed offensive. They stressed he launched the operation without consulting his U.S. allies. Some military leaders and lawmakers suggested otherwise, saying Americans knew in general about the upcoming Iraqi effort but the timing was a surprise.
Apparently so was the almost immediate need by the Iraqis for U.S. air support and other help as soon as the Basra crackdown commenced. But even after American and British troops moved in to mop up after faltering Iraqi forces, the fiasco still ended up with Shiite militants, led by an emboldened Muqtada al-Sadr, controlling Basra.

The above is from Marilou Johanek's "Iraq's security forces failed 'defining moment' in Basra" (Toledo Blade) and that pretty much sums up what went down in the lead up to next week's Congressional testimonies on the part of US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Gen David Petraeus. But the puppet, Nouri al-Maliki, really doesn't get it and those pulling in his strings (White House) don't explain it to him. From Leila Fadel's "Massive Shiite protest planned in Iraq; more battles possible" (McClatchy Newspapers):

Firebrand Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr on Thursday called for a massive demonstration against the "occupation" of Iraq on April 9, which would coincide with the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad and come just after U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are to testify to Congress about progress in Iraq.
As Sadr called for a million people to converge on the Shiite holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq, he also warned the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to purge the security forces of members of the Badr Organization, the military wing of the rival Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, and of Sunni Baathists.
"Some entities in the Iraqi government are trying to put us between drawing swords and degradation," Sadr's statement said. "That is why I say as the Imam Hussein said, 'Never will we be subservient.' "
Maliki, back in Baghdad after a week of directing an Iraqi security forces offensive against Sadr's Mahdi Army militia in the southern port city of Basra, promised to "liberate" Sadr's strongholds of Sadr City and Shoala in the capital.
Abdel Kareem Khalaf, the Ministry of Interior spokesman, said from Basra that if Maliki's demand that Sadr's forces hand over their weapons to the Iraqi security forces by April 8 in exchange for cash isn't met, the weapons would be confiscated by force.

And proving that neither the puppet nor his string pullers have learned a thing, AFP reports:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Thursday said he planned to launch more crackdowns on militiamen as hard-line Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for a massive anti-US protest next week. Maliki said future assaults by government forces could not be ruled out after last week's crackdown in Baghdad and the southern city of Basra, which mostly targeted fighters of Sadr's Mehdi Army militia.
"I expect more crackdowns like this. We do not negotiate with outlaws," Maliki told a news conference in the capital's heavily fortified Green Zone.
"The coming days will witness more assaults as people are still in the control of gangs," he said, naming areas such as Shuala, Sadr City and Ameriyya in Baghdad as possible targets of military operations.

He loves to talk big which is embarrassing enough since he's never been able to back it up and just becomes a bigger joke on the international stage. However, no sooner does he pull that junk than he backtracks -- over and over. From Reuters:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Friday his security forces would stop arresting militiamen if they give up their weapons, apparently seeking to defuse tensions with Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
In a statement, Maliki said he would grant amnesty from prosecution to anyone who took part in clashes in southern Iraq and Baghdad last week if they handed in their guns.
The statement appeared to soften Maliki's position from Thursday, when at a news conference he threatened a crackdown on Sadr's strongholds in Baghdad.

Clearly, they have learned nothing -- the puppet or his handlers.
Also offering evaluations is The Villager. From their editorial "Dems must find their spine on Iraq:"

The so-called surge is not "working" and it has nothing to do with the heightened violence last week. Even with the reduced level of violence against Americans in the last few months, we were still losing about a soldier a day. Many more troops are being severely wounded with crippling physical and mental injuries. Iraqi civilians continue to be killed in far greater numbers. The surge’s intent was to prompt the Iraqis into making political compromises in order to govern themselves. Even the Bush administration admits there has been little progress on that front. How will the Iraqis ever be able to police themselves if Bush and John McCain continue to suggest we are willing to stay indefinitely -- a century, if necessary?
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz pegs the cost of the war at $3 trillion -- money that could have helped complete the war in Afghanistan; reduced our subsidies to terrorists while promoting energy independence; lessened global climate change; provided universal healthcare, and done so much more.
One of our congressional representatives, Jerrold Nadler, opposed the war and wants to cut off funds, but he has few allies and his Democratic leaders have been cowardly in going against Bush. The Democrats have aided and abetted Bush at every step of the war. Yet Congress has the power to stop funding the war.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

I Hate The War

"Basra uprising beats occupiers"
by Simon Assaf
The mass revolt that broke out across Iraq last week has exposed the hollow claim that the occupation has won a "strategic victory" in Iraq.
The Iraqi army launched an assault on Basra that claimed to be an effort to deal with the presence of "criminal gangs", but which was in reality an attempt to crush the popular resistance to occupation.
In an angry response to the army, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets.
The US and Britain had invested heavily in the belief that Iraqi troops could police the country on their behalf while they slowly draw down their own troops. George Bush declared the assault a "defining moment" for his "surge" strategy.
But many Iraqi soldiers and police refused to fight, while others retreated or defected to the rebels.
Now Britain's defence minister Des Browne has ripped up plans to cut the number of British troops in southern Iraq.
The revolt began when Iraq’s prime minister Nuri al-Maliki attempted to seize control of the oil rich city of Basra from the Mehdi Army, a popular nationalist movement led by rebel Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
The leader of Iraq’s main oil workers' union Hassan Juma relayed a message to Socialist Worker which explained how whenever Iraqi troops attempted to move into Basra’s poor neighbourhoods, they met determined resistance.
"The Iraqi army assault began with intense shelling and fire from all sorts of weapons," the message states.
"The heroic neighbourhood of Hayania prevented the puppet Iraqi army from entering the city."
British troops had been training Iraqi forces for the decisive showdown with the rebels who had driven the British out of the city six months ago. This strategy has now fallen apart.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in mass demonstrations – taking control of the southern cities of Nassiriya, Kut, Hilla, Diwaniya, Ammara, Kerbala and Shia Muslim neighbourhoods of Baghdad.
The Sunni Muslim resistance organisations also declared their support for the rebellion -- overcoming the crippling sectarian divisions that have plagued the country for the last two years.
In a statement the Association of Muslim Scholars, the mouthpiece for the predominantly Sunni resistance organisations, called for "all Iraqis to show unity and solidarity and prevent the threats against the people who oppose the occupation".
By last Saturday the assault on Basra had stalled, with a large part of the city under the control of the resistance. The occupation responded with ferocious attacks.
Coalition warplanes killed scores of people in the cities of Hit and Basra, while US troops fired artillery barrages into Baghdad’s poor neighbourhoods in a desperate attempt to cover the Iraqi army's rout.
Finally, with the Maliki government facing humiliation, Iraqi officials brokered a truce with the help of Iranian officials.
On Sunday the government offered to stop their raids and release some of the captured fighters if Sadr ordered an end to the revolt. The government dropped all demands that rebels hand over their weapons. Later that evening Sadr instructed his commanders to withdraw from the streets.
This latest uprising comes after Sadr ordered a ceasefire last August.
He argued that a key element of the US surge was to "disarm the militias" -- a thinly veiled threat against his movement -- and feared a direct confrontation would see a repeat of the murderous attacks by US warplanes on the densely crowded neighbourhoods already visited upon the country.
Although the truce has thrown a lifeline to a government that had staked its credibility on crushing the resistance, the uprising has revealed the depth of anger at the occupation.
Izzat al-Shahbander, a pro-occupation Iraqi MP, admitted to the Reuters news agency, "What has happened has weakened the government and shown the weakness of the state. Now the capability of the state to control Iraq is open to question.'"
This is not exactly the "decisive moment" that George Bush had hoped for.
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Thank you to Pru for reminding me (in the roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin tonight) that I never used her highlight Sunday. My apologies. She's substituted this one for Sunday's choice. This is talking entry. And we're going to address a few Iraq topics that are coming up in the e-mails to the public account.

There are two threads of thought from visitors: "You're supporting Moqtada al-Sadr!" and "Why won't you support Moqtada al-Sadr!" I don't know al-Sadr. I have no reason to support him or oppose him.

Since at least September, I have made the observation that a leader doesn't move away from the people especially when they feel they are under seige. That's basic revolution, rebellion and resistance in any Poli Sci class. You may not like it but it's neither an attack on al-Sadr nor an endorsement of him, just the way it works.

By not being in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad when so many of his followers felt they were under assault, he was weaking his power position. Again, this is basic political theory. This wasn't a case of a revolutionary heading for the hills because they were under personal attack and threat. This was a case of his deciding to pursue his studies. If you feel the US occupation is making you and your neighbors a victim, then you're going to be very offended your leader is choosing not to be around. As a result of that, his hold was weakening.

The US government didn't have to do a thing (if their objective was to take away al-Sadr's power -- and that has been their stated objective). al-Sadr was throwing his leadership away all by himself. If you're house is being raided, you're really not in the mood to go to your mosque and hear an edict read from your leader who has decided to pursue other activities while you're left in the midst of the occupation. It breeds resenment and it leads to others asserting themselves as leaders.

Renewing the truce found al-Sadr residents going public with their complaints. Not surprising complaints and political theory would have told you those were coming. Ignoring the trouble brewing al-Sadr remained outside Baghdad. That only added to the resentments. (Think of the US being occupied and our leaders deciding to go elsewhere.)

The assault on Basra was a crime against humanity. But, in terms of basic theory, it was a huge mistake the moment it started because, with the US wanting to strip al-Sadr of his power, you don't create an opportunity for him to empower himself. al-Sadr, for whatever reason, elected to stand up as the assault was going on. The minute that happened, he had more power than he ever did before. Forget earlier times when he stood up. The Iraq War is over five years old and what Iraqis see is accommodation on the part of their 'leadership.' So al-Sadr standing up at that moment was heroic in the eyes of many.

That's why you saw the massive demonstrations take place. Basra revealed al-Maliki to be even more inept than most thought he was. (The assault was a war crime. That's not in dispute by me. I'm speaking of the messages sent worldwide and within Iraq by his actions throughout the war crimes.) His claims that he had won only made him a bigger joke.

I'm not aware of a large number of members of the US Congress who praise al-Maliki. Those objecting to comments quoted hear from hearings need to take that up with the Senator or Representative who uttered them.

In terms of the hearings this week. The point is for Congress to set down a framework within which the realities of Iraq can be measured. They didn't do that in September. It's why Operation Happy Talk was so successful. They also need to be doing their own research so that they're not just saying, "Well get back to me with that information." They need to be prepared to challenge and back up their challenges when Gen David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker testify.

That is what Joe Biden's hearings (yesterday and today) have been about and that is what US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's press conference was supposed to be about today.

An angry vistor writes that I ripped Pelosi apart for no reason and was gunning for her before the press conference. Actually, I assumed Pelosi would have her act together for this and that I wouldn't be offering any negative critique.

That she didn't was appalling. Her remarks (prepared) delivered were lackluster (in their delivery). Her spontaneous remarks were unneeded (and if you're going to dash in to say thank you or introduce one person, you do it for all). The Q&A was awful.

Rahm Emanuel doesn't usually get praise from me at this site (I honestly believe that was the first time I've praised him here) but he salvaged the Q&A. He couldn't save it because too much damage had been done. But he salvaged it. She should be very glad he rushed to the microphone when he did.

Pelosi's eyes darted everywhere and the simplest question (on topic) seemed to throw her. She would issue a statement and then try to backtrack (another sign that she was neither focused nor prepared). It was embarrassing.

This was hoped to be the moment of the morning that would shape the day's coverage. You can't wing that. She was ill prepared and it showed.

As noted in the snapshot, she early on noted that she was only going to discuss the topic at hand (as she should have). But right after saying that, she starts offering additional remarks. And she did that over and over. By the time everyone else had exited, she was gabbing about her trip to India. She was defocused.

She shouldn't have taken the question on a Senate proposal that had nothing to do with Iraq. What's being quoted is her backtracking. She made a statement and then she offered the quote apparently because she thought her initial refusal might appear harsh. The topic was Iraq. It's not harsh to say, "We're hear to talk about Iraq." It's not harsh to say, "I'll be happy to meet with you at another time for a discussion of other issues but this morning we are focusing on Iraq." It's not rude to call an end (someone should have) to the meandering Q&A by saying, "If no one else has a question regarding Iraq . . ."

Instead, she's meandering off about her trip to India. And the reporters faces during that was priceless.

As bad as that was, she then made it even worse.

The purpose was to create a framework for Iraq. Nothing else should detract from that. If the hottie of the week had said, "I want to stand next to Nancy," he should have been turned down because it would be "____ at press conference!" in the coverage. You do nothing to detract from Iraq. You give nothing but Iraq so that those at the press conference have the option of either ignoring it (as many did) or else writing about it.

You certainly do not take it to a water cooler topic. But Nancy Pelosi did just that. She wasn't asked her opinion on super delegates in the press conference. But suddenly, with a look of inspiration flashing across her face, she brings that up. As study after study has shown, the election is getting more attention than Iraq. The last topic she needed to go to was the election.

But she did. And she needs to be asking herself what the purpose of the press conference was and how she thinks she served that purpose.

This isn't All About Nancy. This is about, day after day, laying down a framework by which to evaluate the escalation. Pelosi blew it. And she wasn't even asked the question. She volunteered it, at the end, and it's what most reporters were talking about after. Naturally because it's a water cooler topic, one that lends itself easy to gas baggery.

You don't do that. Think of what's going on as promotion (if you're not grasping that purpose of laying down a framework). If you're promoting something, that's what you work. You work it over and over. You don't bring up other projects or products. You stick with what you're supposed to be promoting. You have no control over whether anyone will report on it. But if you introduce a new element (super delegates) into the proceedings, you are giving them every reason not to write about it and instead run with "Pelosi Weighs In On Super Delegates!"

It was a huge mistake. It was unprofessional, it was uncalled for, it was embarrassing and it was a slap in the face to all the members of Congress who are attempting to create an environment in which Iraq can be properly evaluated.

The illegal war needs to end and that's not going to come about by Nancy Pelosi talking about her trip to India or offering her opinion on the election. In terms of the Democratic Party itself, it is to its own interest that it be seen as trying to address Iraq. They disappointed a lot of voters after the 2006 election. They need to make it very clear that the war can end now if the White House wasn't stubborn. They need to do that for the 2008 elections.

So Pelosi failed Congress and she failed her own party.

Did she fail the country? I don't think so because I'm not expecting the illegal war to end this year. (It needs to but I don't think that's happening.) But considering all the work that so many others in Congress are doing, the only evaluation for her performance is failure.

Again, Rahm Emanuel salvaged the press conference. Had he stayed until the end, he might have salvaged her outburst (super delegates). But he's not Pelosi's minder. It's a sad thing that she needs one; however, after today, she probably shouldn't be doing press conferences if she can't do the intensive and extensive prep-work needed beforehand.

The hearing Joe Biden chaired today (Senate Foreign Affairs Committee) was an academic excercise and I'm not really sure it served the purpose all that well either. But it didn't undercut it. Yesterday's hearings were important. Congress was hearing from and weighing the importance of withdrawal.

One visitor e-mails that this was undercut with today's hearing that called for US occupation through 2012. That's your opinion but I didn't hear cries (from witnesses or Senators) that the US had to stay until 2012. It was more like a symposium on where Iraq might be in 2012. The witnesses were largely weak and too many had their own pet issues to push which is how you got predictions passed off as realities. (Again, one witness used "might" repeatedly. All should have followed his lead but some had pet issues to push and went with that instead of sticking to the topic.)

One feels it was unfair to dismiss one witness (my dismissal) and my reply to that is don't waste my time making me take notes if at the end of the hearing you're going to state that your opinion is now different and not elaborate on that. You've just taken the eraser to the chalkboard and there's really no point in including anything you said. (Equally true, nothing she said was of any value. Even before she chose to delete it.)

It was an academic exercise and not as focused as yesterday's hearings were. It did keep Iraq on the radar and, since that is the point of what Congress is currently doing, it was a success.

Pelosi was a failure. She failed at that aim because she couldn't stay focused on it and then she went to a "hot topic" (with no prompting from the press) that was most likely to be the pull quote from the entire press conference -- one that had NOTHING to do with Iraq. She failed. She was an embarrassment.

Jess and I discussed one visitor's e-mail and it'll be addressed in this entry. The visitor was offended that all the candidates are not mentioned and meant Cynthia McKinney. McKinney gets plenty of coverage at this and other sites. For what she's doing, she probably gets too much.
Ralph Nader actually gets less coverage than he's earned and that's due to the fact that he and Cynthia may end up in competition. He is not running for the Green Party's national endorsement; however, he may get the endorsement from some state Green Party's. (He may not.) But Nader is running more of a campaign than McKinney is at this point.

With some Dem candidates, such as Mike Gravel, they appeared to believe the press was supposed to come them. That the press was supposed to pick up the phone every time they filed a Democratic Party primary story. Gravel ran a bad campaign (hopefully he'll improve now that he's running for another party's nomination). You have to do something, anything, daily. You have to issue statements. It's not enough that you're running. Dennis Kucinich understood that and that's one reason he was so easy to cover when he was in the race. It was a rare weekday when his campaign didn't offer something. Go to Cynthia's website and you'll find weeks where one thing is offered. You'll find the week of the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War where they're offering up that she gave a speech on Venezuela. That's no way to run a campaign. Maybe someone thought it was "alternative programming"?

In fairness, the Green Party will decide their nominee via delegates since they don't have primaries or caucuses in every state. But in terms of creating daily excitement, her campaign's not doing that currently. Her supporters are excited. She'd make a wonderful nominee. But right now, she's really not offering anything online. And, as stated earlier, Nader's getting short changed here as a result. That's not going to continue. We won't wait for the McKinney campaign to have something to offer up before we can note Nader in the future.

If you're offended by that, take it up with the McKinney campaign and tell them they need to be a presence because right now they really aren't.

As everyone now knows, I don't like Dennis Kucinich as a presidential candidate and didn't before he declared. But he ran a campaign and he got noted, more so than any other Democratic candidate up until Iowa. It wasn't about my playing favorites. By the same token, Ralph Nader getting noted won't be about my playing favorites of him over Cynthia McKinney. Either would make a strong president. But one's running a campaign right now and the other's not. You can argue that McKinney's doing this or that. Well after the New York Times reports (last week) that even big dailys are not sending reporters on the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama (the cost is $2,000 a day to travel with Obama), candidates better grasp that they need to use their websites the same way they would a campaign office. Nader's site is far from perfect but there is an understanding that you don't ask people to fight for you every day and just offer them something once a week. Third Party candidates, shut out by the media, especially need to use their own outlets to regularly keep in touch with voters.

Cynthia McKinney may not be concerned with that. If so, it may be due to the fact that the party holds their convention in July and she's taking time to focus on other things. But it is a mistake because she has a large number of supporters (in this community and out of it) who are eager for information on a daily basis.

She is also a strong voice on Iraq and you really don't grasp that from a casual visit to her website. She has the record Barack wishes he did. That point should be stressed at her website over and over.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goesNa na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4004. Tonight? 4013. Just Foreign Policy lists 1,196,514 up from 1,193,619 as the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the Iraq War.

Congress isn't trying to end the illegal war this week, they are trying to set up criteria by which to judge events in Iraq. Nancy Pelosi offering her views on super delegates isn't helping anyone. She needs to stop pimping her candidate and start doing her doing damn job. She's Speaker of the House, not the director of the Obama Campaign. If Obama's campaign is taxing her so much, she might need to step down (a question she took with regards to others and the cost for new elections). If she's not prepared to be Speaker of the House all this time later, she needs to step down. She pulls another stunt like today, Democrats need to call for her to step down. She pushed her candidate, she pushed her trip to India. That wasn't the issue Dems were supposed to be focusing in the press conference.

And her defocusing brings the illegal war no closer to an end.

The e-mail address for this site is

Iraq snapshot

April 3, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, Nancy Pelosi babbles in public,  Bambi's War Hawk feathers get a little attention, curfews are not good for children and living things, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Joshua Key is an Iraq War veteran who could not continue to take part in the illegal war.  He and his family (wife Brandi Key and their children) moved to Canada to seek asylum which was denied November 2006 by Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board.  Currently he is appealing that decision before Canada's Federal Court.  Colin Perkel (Canadian Press) reports that "lawyer Jeffry House told Justice Robert Barnes the board was wrong to conclude that the U.S. allows soldiers to object legally to what their military is doing in Iraq.  In fact, House said, the United States Supreme Court has held that going to war is a high-level policy decision that cannot be litigated" and quotes him explaining, "There is no possibility whatsoever in the U.S. that anyone can raise the issue of an illegal war."  In 2005, Orlando's WESH reported (text and video) on Joshua Key and quoted Jeffry House explaining of war resisters, "They shouldn't be punished because they are making a moral choice that has a lot to be said for it. . . . These are people that to me seem so innocent of any wrongdoing that I feel like I have to go the last mile for them."  Joshua Key explains, "I went to fight for my country.  To me, the Army, they lied to me from the beginning." 
At 8:30 yesterday morning, Key attempted to receive the justice that has so far been denied to US war resisters in Canada. Peter Wilmoth (Australia's The Age) reviewed  The Deserter's Tale (written by Key and Lawrence Hill) and quoted from the text: 
I wish I could pass on my [PTSD] nightmares to him [George W. Bush].  America's sons and daughters are losing their lives because he fabricated reasons to go to war, the weapons-of-mass-destruction lie.  I deserted an injustice and leaving was the only right thing to do.  I owe one apology and one apology only, and that is to the people of Iraq. 
Brian Lynch (Vancouver's quotes Key explaining, "I went to fight for my country, and I did what I was told.  I left it only when I saw for myself that it was unjust and immoral. . . . It would've been easier just to say, 'Okay, I'll go back and do what I was doing.'  The hardest thing was to do what I did.  And I live with a clear conscience because of that." Last year, Jenny Dean (Denver Post) told the stories of several war resisters including Key:
Joshua Key was a welder and part-time pizza deliveryman in Oklahoma with a wife, two kids and a baby on the way.  "I couldn't make ends meet," he says.  
In May 2002, a recruiter in a strip mall offered a deal too good to refuse: steady pay, health insurance and, because he was a father, no combat duty.  
But by fall when Key arrived at Fort Carson, the rumors of war had begun.  He and others in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment figured if war came it would be over quickly.   
And, in fact, when Key first arrived in Iraq, there was virtually no resistance.  He says he was taught how to blow doors off houses and search for terrorists and caches of weapons.  In 200 raids, the private first class says, he never found more than the occasional rifle.  
All males over 5 feet tall were to be handcuffed and sent away for interrogation, he says.  The women and children were to be held at gunpoint, Key says. He adds that any money or valuables were fair game and admits to pocketing his share.  After all, he figured, they were the enemy.  
His uneasieness grew as the violence around him escalated.  The tipping point came one day when his unit was traveling along the Eurphrates River and happened upon the bodies of four decapitated Iraqis.  He says he was ordered to find evidence of a firefight.  He found none.    
But he says he did see a panicked American soldier screming "We (expletive) lost it here" as other soldiers kicked the heads like soccer balls.  
"I'm not going to have no part of this," he says he told his commander.  During a leave six months later, Key told his wife he wasn't going back: "I couldn't help but think we had become the terrorists.  What if it was us and someone came breaking into our homes and held guns at our children?"   
The Associated Press quotes him from outside the court yesterday explaining, "You're terrorizing the civilian population -- for what sense or for what reason, I don't know.  The innocent killings of civilians happened on a systematic basis there.  It wasn't every now and then, it was an everyday occasion."  Colin Perkel (Canadian Press) reports that "Judge Barnes said he hopes to rule before August."  Should the Federal Court not overturn the board's decision, Key's next step would be to appeal to the country's Supreme Court.  Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey were the first US war resisters to appeal and, November 15, 2007, Canada's Supreme Court refused to hear their cases.
Should the Supreme Court also refuse to hear Key's the case, the best chance for Key and other US war resisters is a measure scheduled to be debated and voted by Canada's Parliament this month.  You can make your voice heard. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum. 

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).  
Turning to the United States.  Shortly the White House sends Gen David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker off to make the rounds of Congress and attempt to launch another wave of Operation Happy Talk to convince the people of America that the illegal war must continue.  Various efforts are taking place on the part of the US Congress to avoid being caught off guard the way they were in September.  Some work, some don't.  Case in point, the press conference this morning held by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi, what was the point of the press conference?  Reading the wires may result in confusion.  Reuters reports on the conference in terms of . . . a bankruptcy bill.  At some point, her nonsense on super delegates will be picked up.  The topic was Iraq.  Pelosi stated that when they took questions but refused to stick to that topic and felt the need to embellish on other topics repeatedly.  After the other House members left, Pelosi continued to entertain questions (she even continued taking non-Iraq questions as she walked out of the room).  You either focus or you don't.  Pelosi didn't.  Pelosi gave reporters every reason to focus on something other than Iraq (not that most need a reason to do so).  She did a HORRIBLE job and, if that's the House's best effort, the American people are in a lot of trouble.
Others participating in the conference were Ike Skelton, Howard Berman and Rahm Emanuel.  Skelton, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, declared that, "It's the Iraqis that are letting themselves down.  They have had, as a result of the so-called surge, space" to move foward but they "are not stepping up to the plate as they should. The American People should understand that it's theirs [the Iraqis] to win or lose."  Berman referred to the need for the upcoming hearings to cover "broad issues about costs, readiness, the [US] role in Afghanistan" and he noted the escalation's "underlying premise" was "national reconciliation" in Iraq which hasn't taken place.  He noted the benchmarks and how nothing has really happpened there either.  Yes, a few laws have been pased, Berman noted, but they "are ambiguous and it's very unclear whether they will ever be implemented."  He cited one in particular.  The de-de-Baathifcation law.  (Paul Bremer issued the de-Baathification order so anything that remedies it is referred to here as the "de-de-Baatification law.  Berman didn't use that term.)  Berman noted it was "passed two months ago and still is not implemented."  He cited that as the sort of issues that Petraeus and Crocker needed to provide answers on as well as the "strengthening of Iran and even Iran's role" in the Basra conflict.  Repeatedly stressed (including by Pelosi) was the issue of "cost" which includes "America's security, our armed forces and, as the Speaker said, our economy."
When reporters tried to enlarge the topic early on, Pelosi was prepared and declared, "Right now our focus is on the testimony next week."  (That was in reference to an expected 'supplemental' war funding request from the White House.)  But she couldn't even maintain that focus for the brief press conference. (It lasted approximately a half-hour).  She noted the costs of the illegal war was "now in the trillions" and the White House declared, before starting the Iraq War, "that the war would probably cost about $50 billion and could probably be paid soon."  She noted hos many millions oil revenues bring to Iraq each day and stated that the US is spending "about $300 million a day in Iraq and we get no offset."
"What I hope we don't hear from General Petraeus next week," she declared, is a glorfication of what just happened in Basra . . .  because the fact is that there are many questions to arise from what happened in Basra."  She listed some including that the US reported only received notice that the assault on Basra would be taking place "twenty-four hours ahead of time".  She wondered what was worse -- that the US would only receive 24 hours notice or that US forces were then brought in?  She mentioned Moqtada al-Sadr at length and noted "al-Sadr established the terms by which he would freeze the violence from his side -- terms probably dictated by Iran and they were accepted like that (snaps fingers) by al-Maliki."
Skelton noted, "The strain is heavy.  It's not heavy just on those in uniform, but on their families as well."  He continued by declaring that Afghanistan was not the only "interest" the US had and that "you can only stretch the military so far."
Rahm Emanuel actually rescued the Q&A because Pelosi was so defocused.  He stepped up to the microphone at several points.  His strongest section was when he noted that, regardless of what happens on the ground in Iraq, the White House cries "more troops, more timeand more money" and dubbed this a "policy cul-du-sac and we just keep going round and round". 
Referencing's General Betray-Us ads in Septemeber, Pelosi was asked if she was requesting any advocacy groups sit it out on the sidelines and she responded, "I don't deter anyone's right to speak out.  I'm a big proponent of the First Amendment but I wope we [Congress] would shine a bright light of truth and mirror on what he [Petraeus] has to say."  This was her strongest section in the press conference and she used the focus (provided by Rahm Emanuel rescuing the moment, let's all be honest) to discuss what needs to be focused on in next week's testimonies.  1) How is it helping the US fight "the real war on terror in Afghanistan"?  2) "How is it impacting our readiness?" 3) "How is it impacting our economy?"  She went on to state that the Iraq War is "driving us into debt, which is driving us into recession and the American people are paying the costs."  She should have closed with her next statement, reminding the reporters that "we have a general and an ambassador -- two employees of the United States -- coming" to offer testimony.  That was the closing moment.
But Pelosi couldn't stay focused and, by this time, Rahm was gone and so were Skelton and Berman leading Pelosi, in this alleged "Let's focus on Iraq!" conference, to start rambling on about MLK, Ghandi, her recent trip to India ("which some of you may have read about") and blah, blah, blah, blah. 
Could someone inform the Speaker of the House that the Democrats in Congress are attempting to prevent another snow job by Petraeus and Crocker?  Pelosi needs to stay on topic.  No one needs to hear about her travels to India.  Or what's going on in the rotunda.  Presumably, all press present were provided with a schedule of the day's events.  The conference was about Iraq and specifically attempting to set down markers by which the American people could measure next week's testimony.  Sadly, Pelosi still wasn't done and had to then offer her opinions on the issue of super delegates -- her opinion, it should be noted, to a question NO ONE ASKED.  The topic, Pelosi apparently forgot, was Iraq and preparing for next week's testimony.  She needs to stay focused or send out surrogates in the future.
If that seems minor, it's not.  Congress is attempting to set the tone and expectations for next week's testimony.  Many members are doing their part.  No one needs Nancy Pelosi blowing off everyone's hard work because she wants to play Starlet Holds A Press Conference.  Yesterday, US Senator Joe Biden did his part as the chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations as the issue of withdrawal was seriously addressed and explored via multiple testimonies.  That was an all day session that broke only for lunch.  The media seems to be willfully missing that.  Possibly the same press that sold the illegal war doesn't want to discuss Congress exploring withdrawal?  Today, the committee heard testimony for their panel entitled "Iraq 2012: What Can It Look Like, How Do We Get There?"
"Before the war began," Biden explained in his opening remarks, "this committee warned that the failure to plan and define realistic objectives in Iraq would cause us to pay a heavy price. We cannot continue to make it up as we go along.  We must mark a direction on our strategic compass -- and deliberately move in that direction.  Ironically, despite all the debate in Washington and beyond about our Iraq policy, there is one premise just about everyone shares: lasting stability will come to Iraq only through a political settlement among its warring factions.  So the single most important question you would think we would be debating is this: 'What political arrangements might Iraqis agree to and what are the building blocks to achieve them?  Yet we almost never ask ourselves those questions.  Today we will."
Senator Richard Luger, the highest ranking Republican on the committee noted, "Yesterday, in two hearings, the Foreign Releations Committee examined the status of military and political efforts in Iraq.  Today, our witnesses will look beyond immediate problems to the prospects for Iraq four or five years into the future. . . .  We being this inquiry knowing that we have limited means and time to pursue an acceptable resolution in Iraq.  Testifying before us yesterday, Major General Robert Scales joined our other witnesses in underscoring the limits imposed by the strains on our armed forces." 
The sparsely attended hearing (Senator Bill Nelson was one of the few to show) may have had to do with the fact that three of the four witnesses were advocating for 'federalism.'  The panel had no real diversity of thought.  Harvard's Dr. Dawn Brancati (who supported 'federalism' from the start) would declare at the end of the hearing, "Actually I think discussion among the three of us has changed my position slightly."  So there's little point in reviewing her opening statements or anything during the hearing.  Brookings' Carlos Pascual and American University's Professor Carole O'Leary also favored 'federalism' (O'Leary would argue that using 'partion' was an obstacle).  RAND's Dr. Terrence Kelly did not offer an opinion but felt that what Iraq currently has in the political system is what it will have for some time to come because no one will want to give up powers.  Only the University of Vermont's Dr. F. Gregory Gause III would address larger issues than "wants" (on the part of the United States) and he focused on the players in the region.  He identified Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia as "the most important regional players."   He stated, "The Saudi-Iranian contest for influence is not a direct confrontation.  Iran does not pose a military threat to Saudi Arabia, and the Saudis do not see Iran as such.  While Riyadh  worries about the Iranian nuclear pogram, that is an issue for the future, not the immediate present.  President Ahmadinejad visited Saudi Arabia in 2007 and the two countries have kept lines of communication open."  In terms of Turkey and Iraq, he noted that "the Turkish perspective on Iraq, is not regional; it is domestic.  Ankara views events in Iraq through the prism of its own Kurdish issues.  It has accommodated itself since 1991 to the de facto independence of Iraqi Kurdistan.  Turkish businesses are developing substantial interests there.  However, it will not long tolerate any actions by the Iraqi Kurdish leadership which it sees as encourging Turkish Kurds to dream of independence and revolt against the Turkish government."  He listed the three most cited outcomes from a US withdrawal from Iraq.  1) Iraq violence spills over to Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.  2) Civil war (high intensity) breaks out in Iraq forcing neighboring states to intervene.  3) al Qaeda would use it as a base.  "It is hardly inevitable," he explained, "that American withdrawal from Iraq would lead to any of these bad results.  On the contrary, I will make the case that an announced intention to withdrawal on a realistic timetable might -- again, I stress 'might' -- actually push regional powers to take more coopertive stances on Iraq."   On the first option, he felt Syria and Jordan would be at risk for refugees arriving and called for more international aid.  On the second, he felt that various Iraqi elements within the country would stabilize as they "tested" their won powers.  He felt that no one really wants to control Iraq.  Iran has what it wants (influence), Turkey doesn't want to "annex" the Kurdish region of Iraq (not noted but that would further extend the Kurdish region in Turkey) and "the Saudi army is hardly capable of serious cross-border operations."  On the third outcome, he stated that "making that . . . the reason to maintain our presence in Iraq gives Usama bin Laden a veto over American policy.  That cannot be a good thing."
He used "might" often.  There were no such qualifiers from O'Leary who might want to turn that psychic eye to the financial markets if she is so sure of herself.  She offered predictions (presented as fact and findings)   as to what political parties would be standing (and which wouldn't be).  When not predicting, she stressed the importance of tribal identities in Iraq and felt that tribes were the most logical unit that could explore issues such as "civil society" due to them being "the metaphor of family".  As an acedmic exercise, O'Leary's presentations would be interesting.  In terms of the topic of the hearing, O'Leary was too vested in what "should" happen ('federalism') and appeared eager to get to the issue of "How we make it happen!"
Dr. Terrence Kelly feels violence is a mainstain in Iraq for at least a generation regardless of anything else that does or does not take place. Echoing the generals at yesterday's hearing, he stated that the US is not equipped to do nation-building in Iraq.  He noted the competing narratives among the three largest groups (Shia, Sunni, Kurd) and that "Americans do not undestand Iraqi social processes well, and so have not been effective at recognizing their importance.  In many, though not all, ways, the U.S. cannot significantly influence these processes.  Nor should it try to in most cases.  The U.S.'s role in these issues are primarily to support insitutions and pressure political leaders to make needed changes."
In questioning, Kelly would return to the basics of a system such as when he noted "democracy requires a set of laws that people follow." In response to whether the current system (referred to as a 'cofederation') will exist but have "a dictator on top of it," Kelly replied that he didn't believe that was possible "because the dictator would want to have a unified government" and "I don't think that an army officer would say I want to be president of Iraq but I want the power to be in the provinces."
Biden noted the testimony of the generals on Wednesday and how the current course is not sustainable for the US military.  It was not as in-depth (or as varied -- even from the center) as yesterday's hearing but it did get the point across that the Iraq War is not achieving and that political solutions are something the Iraqis will have to decide on, not the US.
Turning to Iraq where the 'solution' is always 'crack-down' and 'curfew.'  The assault on Basra led to the expected reaction for anyone with a functioning brain but caught the puppet Nouri al-Maliki (and his handlers) by surprise.  Their response was the usual curfews.  The International Medical Corps notes:
Recent fighting and subsequent curfews in several major Iraqi cities have led to food shortages, disruption of health services, and above normal gaps in water and electricity supplies. Fighting, instability, and restriction of movements caused many people living under the curfew to feel depressed and agitated. The overall standstill of commercial life hit the poorest and most vulnerable Iraqis most.

In a rapid assessment International Medical Corps (IMC) found that living conditions of Iraqis deteriorated under the multi-day curfews in almost all aspects. In telephone interviews people were asked to comment on their economic situation and their physical and mental well-being.

"The curfews show how vulnerable Iraqis are to any further disruptions in their lives," says Agron Ferati, International Medical Corps country director in Iraq. "Over the last days we have seen how the everyday problems in the lives of ordinary Iraqis can quickly reach crisis proportions."

A large number of respondents (75%) were either unemployed or support their families as day laborers. Although most said they are used to stockpiling supplies, people with a low or irregular income said they would run out of food if the curfew would continued.    

International Medical Corps also found large gaps in the health care sector. More than half of those respondents who needed medical assistance during the curfew said they had difficulties finding help, and a quarter could not get access to a health facility at all.   

Hospitals experienced shortages in medical supplies and were short-staffed during the curfew while the caseload of patients with serious injuries increased. Medical personnel could not reach hospitals and the referral system broke down due to the overall restriction in movement.       

In response to the crisis International Medical Corps is providing assistance to 2,000 families in Sadr City, a poor district in Baghdad, where fighting was especially fierce and citizens were cut off from assistance during the curfew. IMC is distributing one month's worth of food to the families -- including rice, cooking oil, sugar, beans, and flour - and is also delivering 100,000 liters of water in Sadr City.   

To avoid further disruptions in critical care three hospitals are receiving medication and supplies from International Medical Corps that will help them to better cope during curfews and administer life-saving care to patients.        

The insecurity and resulting curfews exacerbated existing worries and led to increased tension among family members. The vast majority of people interviewed for the survey said that the situation had made them feel hopeless, restless, and worthless.      
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraq soldier and left three more wounded, two other Baghdad roadside bombings left four people wounded, a Baghdad bombing wounded a police officer, a Baghdad car bombing claimed 3 lives and left ten more people wounded, a Nineveh truck bombing claimed 7 lives and left twelve people wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing wounded eight people and a US airstrike on Basra claimed 4 lives and left six people injured.  Reuters reports a Samara roadside bombing claimed the lives of 5 police officers and a clash in Hilla that ended with a US airstrike resulting in 6 deaths ("including 4 policemen") and fifteen more people left injured.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 people were shot dead in Kirkuk last night.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Meanwhile Reuters reports that Moqtada al-Sadr has announced a march against the occupation for April 9th as well as for a Baghdad "peaceful sit-in" this Friday.  In the US, justice is delayed for crafts.  Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi murdered and gang-rape was supposed to be the focus of a civilian trial starting this coming Monday. That has been delayed. March 12, 2006, US soldiers invaded Abeer's home and gang-raped her while killing both of her parents and her five-year-old sister. They then killed Abeer. While other soldiers have confessed to their part in the planning of the conspiracy and in the crimes, Steven D. Green has maintained his innocence -- despite being fingered in courtroom confessions as the ringleader. Part of the plot was to plan the crimes on Iraqi 'insurgents' and Green was discharged from the US military while these mythical 'insurgents' were still believed to be the culprits. As a result of the fact that he had been discharged, he was set to face a civilian court and that trial was finally due to start this coming Monday; however, AP reports the trial has been delayed "by three weeks to accomodate a quilt show".  Also in the US, Erika Bolstad (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Senators Patty Murray, Lisa Murkowski, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Blanche Lincoln, Jay Rockefeller, Ron Wyden and Charles Schumer have sponsored a bill which "would require that the VA system adapt to care for the 90,000 wmen who have served in the military since 2001" and "require the Veteran Administration's mental health staff to be trained to counsel victims of sexual assault."  The bill is entitled the Women Veterans Health Improvement Act of 2008 and would "address many of the unique needs of female veterans by authorizing programs to improve care for Military Sexual Trauma (MST), increase research on the current barriers to care, and expand women veterans staff positions at the VA."
Turning to US politics, Kevin Zeese wonders "Is It Time for the Peace Movement to Start Protesting Senator Obama?" (Dissident Voice) because, frankly, he finds Bambi "has been sounding rather hawkish" lately.  Lately?  Zeese is apparently just waking up.  He notes Bambi groupie Amy Goodman's 'earth-shattering' two minutes (she cornered Bambi) that didn't turn out so well.  "First," Zeese huffs, "Obama acknowledged combat troops would be left behind as 'a strike force in the region'."  First?  Zeese, where have you been? Zeese goes on to quote Bambi saying that troops could be left in Kuwait.  This is only news, Kevin Zeese, because the Pathetic Likes of Amy Goodman have schilled for Bambi for months.  It's not news here.  From the Nov. 2nd snapshot:
Writing up a report, Gordo and Zeleny are useless but, surprisingly, they do a strong job with some of their questions. The paper should have printed up the transcript. If they had, people might be wondering about the 'anti-war' candidate. He maintains Bill Richardson is incorrect on how quickly US troops could be withdrawan from Iraq. Obama states that it would take at least 16 months which makes one wonder how long, if elected, it would take him to move into the White House? If you can grab a strainer or wade through Obama's Chicken Sop For The Soul, you grasp quickly why he refused to pledge (in September's MSNBC 'debate') that, if elected president, he would have all US troops out of Iraq by 2013: He's not talking all troops home. He tries to fudge it, he tries to hide it but it's there in the transcript. He doesn't want permanent military bases in Iraq -- he appears to want them outside of Iraq -- such as Kuwait.
There's nothing new in Goody's brief report.  That could have all been reported in real time -- back in November -- but Liars and Fluffers for Bambi didn't want people knowing that (or a great deal more).  One of the Fluffers was Tom Hayden who saw the byline of Michael Gordon and just knew it had to be true!  He failed to read the transcript and, when he finally got around to doing so, he broke . . . just like a little girl. That would be the same Tom-Tom who endorsed Bambi in the lead-up to Super Duper Tuesday and then immediately came back with "WE HAVE TO HOLD BOTH THEIR FEET TO THE FIRE!"  You do that by endorsing?  Age has not brought Tom-Tom any dignity. Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report) notes Tom-Tom, Stab, Bill Fletcher and Danny Glover and states they contributed the "most pitiful communication"
The self-styled "progressives" attempt to upend history and fool everybody, including themselves. The four claim that current conditions can be compared to the 1930s, when "centrist leaders" were compelled by activists "to embrace visionary solutions." There's a huge problem with that reasoning, however. In the 1930s, there were already strong movements existent before Franklin Roosevelt's 1932 and 1936 runs for the presidency.  It was the movements -- many of them communist-led -- that shaped the Roosevelt campaigns and the New Deal, that in fact changed history. Today's four wishful signers insist that "even though it is candidate-centered, there is no doubt that the campaign is a social movement, one greater than the candidate himself ever imagined."    
Really? Believe that hogwash when any of the loyal Lefties demand Obama discard his plans to add 92,000 addition soldiers and Marines to the total U.S. military ranks, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars and bringing with it the certainty of more wars. Never happen. The signers have already claimed the political campaign is a movement. Would they expose themselves as poseurs and fakers by making futile demands on the campaign, which is, after all, supposed to be one with the "movement?" Would they risk being told to shut up? No, it's too late for Hayden, Fletcher, Ehrenreich, and Glover to strut around as if they have options; they pissed all that away in the initial glow of Obamamania, and from now on will have to accept their status as hangers on.     
Again, if, like Zeese, Bambi's Iraq realities are emerging for you, blame it on Tom-Tom, Amy Goodman, self-loathing lesbian Laura Flanders and all the others in Panhandle Media who want to be seen as "fair" but don't want to actually be fair.  Better to lie to your audience apparently. Friday Marcia covered the foursome Ford's addressing.
Andrew Stephen (New Statesman) charts one of the bigger lies (and yes, Goody repeatedly promoted it on her trashy show) and a non-stop 'strategy' by the Bambi campaign:
The genius of the Axelrod strategy thus far is that it has been directly centred on race while maintaining the appearance of the opposite, appropriating the race card as well as that of moral rectitude for Obama himself. Very early in the campaign, Obama's South Carolina press office put out a memo pronouncing routine political sniping from the Clinton camp to be racist. The memo came from a local "low-level staffer", Axelrod reassured us. In fact, it was written by Amaya Smith, a seasoned Democratic Party spokesperson and former congressional press secretary based in Washington -- and the labelling of the Clintons as racists had stuck. 
Geraldine Ferraro, the Democrats' vice-presidential candidate in 1984 and a former congresswoman, was similarly targeted. In an interview last month with a tiny Californian newspaper called the Daily Breeze, that would have passed unnoticed by at least 99.99 per cent of Americans, Ferraro casually observed that if Obama was a white man or "a woman of any colour," he would not be a presidential candidate today. Her remarks led to a national furore, but nobody pointed out that it was Obama's campaign that alerted the national media to Ferraro's words. 
"I'm always hesitant to throw around words like 'racist'," Obama said, doing just that. Ferraro, a veteran 72-year-old, riposted that "every time that campaign is upset about something, they call it racist". She sussed out the Axelrod strategy: to gain immunity from political attacks by immediately smearing attackers as racists. 
The kind of thing that is worrying some super-delegates, too, is that Obama is increasingly emerging as no mean fibber himself. In his latest television ad, he declares that he does not take money from oil companies. According to the Centre for Responsive Politics, however, Obama is overlooking the $213,884 he had received from the oil and gas industry up to 29 February, most of it channelled directly from the CEOs of two major oil and gas companies.
Pimping Bambi required rendering a lot of people invisible.  Such as students who support Hillary Clinton.  Law student Diana Winer Rosengard explains, "As a law student, my respect for Senator Clinton has only continued to grow.  I have spent the last two years working with victims of domestic violence, helping them obtain restraining orders and connecting them with community resources.  Thanks to Senator Clinton's unwavering support for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), federal funding is available to protect women and children who are frequently victimized by the ones they love.  VAWA helps victims at the moments when they are most vulenerable by providing resources to train police officers, covering the court costs of emergency restraining orders, and giving victims access to advocates while they work their way through the criminal justice system.  Senator Clinton's commitment to ensuring that federal funding continues means support for programs like the ones I volunteer with -- every week I get to see, first hand, the difference that Senator Clinton's work makes in the grateful faces of these women and children."
Lastly, the 40th anniversary of the assassination of MLK is tomorrow.   Hillary Clinton offers (text and video), "I believe we can honor Dr. King and all Americans -- including the women and men serving our country around the world -- by remembering his timeless challenge: What did you do for others?"

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