Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, January 21, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq okays US leaving quickly . . . and it doesn't okay that, provincial elections loom, the inauguration's first fatality was common sense, Liz Smith plays the fool and so much more. 
Starting with Iraqi provincial elections which are scheduled to be held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces on January 31st.  Aseel Kami (Reuters) explores the issue of females running for seats (a little over 1/25 of those seeking office are women), "But in a country that was once one of the most progressive for women's rights in the Middle East, and where black candidates plan to run for election for the first time, female candidates say the quota gives them little real clout. The system has been dominated by conservative religious parties since U.S.-led forces ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003." Women are afraid to put up their campaign material with photos, they're afraid to campaign and they have to deal with 'honor' killings, threats and sexism.  Meanwhile Alsumaria offers, "In this context, some liberals have accused dominant religious parties of giving quota seats to carefully selected women who would not call for better women's rights. However, many Iraqi men, like Abu Omar, welcome the presence of women in the political establishment." In a separate report, Alsumaria explains that Faraj Al Haydari, head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Committee, has declared a "curfew will be imposed and airports will close off on the day of elections." NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (Morning Edition -- link has text and audio) offers an overview:

Sheik Aifan al-Issawi is a founding member of one of these groups, the Sahwa, or Awakening, movement. In 2006, he and other tribal leaders turned against al-Qaida in Iraq and joined the Americans.
Now, Anbar is one of the more stable Iraqi provinces — and these fighters want to become a political force in Iraq.
Issawi, head of Fallujah's tribal security force, says he and other tribal fighters have sacrificed more than anyone else. He cites his own personal losses: nine members of his family killed, including his mother and sisters.
The Sunni boycott of the polls in 2005 left them with little representation. This time, the sheik says they are going to flex their electoral muscle.

There has been a push in Basra to become its own region (similar to the KRG) and
Basil Adas (Gulf News) reports that the push has failed after supporters "fell short of the 10 per cent of votes" needed but "further division and quarrelling" is expected to continue. Basra resident Khamis Al Alwan is quoted stating, "The Basra failure is a blow to those who are in favour of the division of Iraq. Iraqis want Iraq to remain one country, and this can be seen through the cooperation of Sunnis and Shiites to prevent its division."  CNN explains only 32,448 people signed the petition (out of 135,707 required) and offers this background, "Basra is the only Iraqi province that borders a body of water -- the Shatt al Arab waterway near the Persian Gulf. The province also borders Kuwait and Iran. Cities in the province include Basra city, Umm Qasr and Zubayr."
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing that targeted "Zeyad al Ani, the President of the Islamic Univiersty" and resulted in 4 deaths, wounded two of his guards, and injured ten other people; and a Kirkuk roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left one wounded. Reuters notes a Dour roadside bombing that claimed 5 lives and left three people wounded.
Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Zubair.
Today in DC Gen Peter W. Chiarelli (vice chief of staff in the Amry) met with reporters.  CQ Politics reports that he discussed an ongoing top-to-bottom review that will be completed at the end of next month.  David Wood (Baltimore Sun) explains Chiarelli revealed approximately "20,000 soldiers are unable to serve in war zones because they are recuperating from long-term or minor injuries, including an increasing number suffering from stress fractures and other ailments caused by carrying too much weight in combat".  Wood notes the general stated that the number continues to increase and that he hopes there would be downtime before any US troops from Iraq were redeployed to Afghanistan (as Barack wants them to be).  The general refers to the need for relief.    April 1, 2008, the US House Subcommittee on Health held a hearing entitled Post Traumatic Stress Disorter (PTSD) Treament and Research: Moving Ahead Toward Recovery.  US Army Director, Divisions of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research's Col Charles W. Hoge testified on the first panel.
Hoge declared, "One of the issues with multiple deployments and the dwell time for soldiers when they've come back, we've learned from the research that we've done, [is] that 12 months is not enough time for soldiers to reset and go back for another deployment."   Twelve months -- one year -- was not sufficient.  US House Rep Shelley Berkley asked him, "Not enough time between tours of duty, did I hear you correctly?"  He replied "Yes [pause] What we've found [pause] Yes.  That's what I said. [pause] The 12 months is   insuf-  appears to be insufficient."  Now in the United Kingdom, there is a push for British troops to get more time between deployments.  BBC reports General Richard Dannatt is calling for British troops "not to be sent on operations for more than six months out of every 36."  Currently, deployments overseas are supposed to have 24 months between them and the plan would push the number of months to thirty.  Chris Green (Independent of London) adds that:
. . .  the shadow Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, described General Dannatt's comments as "yet more confirmation that overstretch is seriously damaging the Army's ability to do its job" and called for a review of the present strategy. He said: "The surest way to have unhappy service personnel is to have unhappy service families. General Dannatt's suggestions should be taken seriously, as he is at least attempting creative solutions for our overstretch problem.
"Reducing the number of overseas deployments is a start, but the Government must also look at issues of housing, health care and veterans' welfare if it wants to avert a serious crisis in recruitment and retention. Repairing the broken military covenant is long overdue."
Thomas Harding and Jon Swaine (Telegraph of London) quote Dannatt stating, "We have seriously stretched our soldiers -- both their good will and their families."  And where is the concern in the US where service members already have less time home between deployments?  In the US where Congress has been informed that 12 months is not enough?  Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond) reports on 250 Marines who have finally returned from Iraq and how Cpl Kylie Vanderwende's family plans to celebrate Christmas in a few days, Edward Dikitanan's son Nalani just wants to go to the zoo with his father, Jason Bergmann was finishing his fourth deployment and the first since he'd gotten married 16 months ago to Karie Bergmann who he last saw twelve months ago, and Andrew Anderson who got to hold his daughter Kezia for the first time.  In the United Kingdom, the service members already get more time between deployments and they are now moving to increase that time.  It's time the US Congress did what needs to be done.  (US House Rep Patrick Murphy has floated legislating deployment time and downtime and it may be time for that if the military cannot do it on their own even after the admission in an open hearing that 12 months is not enough downtime.)
Back to the US press breakfast with the general.  Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times' The Caucus) notes another point Chiarelli discussed.  Asked about withdrawal of 'combat' troops within 16 months (popularly presented as Barack's 'pledge') his reply included, "You can pick up and leave anything very quickly, but if you do, you'll leave it in a certain condition that won't be as good if you went through a certain deliberative process of working through those issues.  And there's a lot of logistical issues that have to be worked through, and I think everybody has to understand that, that you can do antyhing, but it just depends on how you want to look and what instructions are given for what you bring and what you leave behind and the contition that you leave your operating bases in when you leave."  That's nonsense and Barack could safely withdraw all US troops from Iraq in his first 100 days if he wanted.  Now follow closely because it's about to get confusing.  AP reports that Ali al-Dabbagh, Nouri al-Maliki's mouthpiece to the press, has declared that US service members could leave Iraq "even before the end of 2011."  That's what the Status Of Forces Agreement masquerading as a treaty could allow for (departure in 2011) if it was followed and not altered or cancelled (either party can cancel it).  Barack's 16-month 'pledge' (only for 'combat' troops) would mean 'combat' troops would be out in April 2010.  While al-Maliki's spokesperson stated 'sure, leave early,' others sent a different message.  Camilla Hall and Zainab Fattah (Bloomberg News) report Hoshyar Zebari (Iraq's Foreign Minister) disagrees and states, "Nobody can afford in 2009 to contemplate any change in military policy. . . . [We can't] give any impression that there will be draw-downs, reductioins, redeployment because this year Iraq has three elections."  So which is it?  When pressed, al-Maliki's spokesperson has a long history -- as does the puppet -- of backing down.
We're still on inauguration coverage and here's how it works.  If you result in 40 or more e-mails complaining (from community members), you get called out.  I'm not in the mood.  And I'm not in the mood to try and answer that many e-mails one on one.  When that many people are pointing to a problem, it will be called out here.  Danny Schechter.  We just rolled our eyes all through 2008 when he pretended repeatedly that he was just calling it like it was and oh, goodness, no favoritism to Barack.  Why does the media suck? It sucks because alleged independents refuse to do their jobs.  The garbage -- and that's the only word for it -- at Danny's News Dissector today is not journalism and it is not independent.  If he can't grasp it, he should substitute "Bush" for "Barack" and he should be appalled by offering up a version of Fox "News." 
For starters, Rev Joseph Lowery is not "one of Dr. King's soldiers."  There is NEVER any need to MILITARIZE the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Repeating, NEVER.  That is appalling and there's no excuse for it.  Not even that Danny's giddy over Barack.  The US is in two wars with Barack's advisors already itching for two more.  Stop trying to turn our civil society into the military.  And on Lowery, again refer to Kimberly Wilder's post at On The Wilder Side.
Meanwhile, it's always great -- and oh, so rare -- when Danny manages to quote a woman at his blog, but possibly stand-up comics who don't know what the hell they're talking about should be avoided? 
Jessi Klein?  Doesn't know what she's talking about.  And Danny should know that.  Long before John Roberts, Chief Justice, screwed up the oath, Barack had already done that.  And, big point, I'd be awfully careful making fun of John Roberts.  Not out of fear that he or his minions would come after but due to questions about Roberts' health which swirl around DC.  Also true is the oath isn't that difficult and the presumably healthy Barack has no excuse  for messing it up.  Jessi wants to ignore that.  She wants to say it's "perfectly symbolic" because of who appointed him.  And Danny apparently agrees. 
Roberts -- whom this site LOUDLY opposed -- was confirmed by the  Senate. Barack's buddy Cass Sunstein (currently married to War Monger and Our Modern Day Carrie Nation Samantha Power) pimped Roberts hard.  Barack obviously loves Cass' 'judgment' since he's named Cass to head Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. 
Barack voted against Roberts while also leading the public argument of "WE CAN'T FILIBUSTER!"  The Democrats could have kept Roberts off the bench.  They did not do so. The Senate confirmed Roberts: 78 voted for Roberts, 22 voted against.  Who voted for Roberts among Democrats?  Well Robert Byrd among others, Russ Feingold, Kent Conrad, Chris Dodd, Patrick Leahy, Carl Levin, Patty Murray, Bill Nelson, Ben Nelson, Ken Salazar (whom Barack nominated to be Sec of Interior and whom the Senate confirmed in the post yesterday), Herb Kohl, Blanche Lincoln -- we can go on and on.  Only 22 senators voted against Roberts (all Democrats).  The Democrats had a bloc of 45 votes at that time (44 Dems plus independent Jim Jeffords). When half of them voted to confirm him and when the Dems would not filibuster the nomination, Roberts sitting on the Court -- presiding over it -- is as much their fault as the Republicans.  That's reality in The Land of Grown Ups.   
Barack said what on the Senate floor about his vote?  "Given that background, I am sorely tempted to vote for Judge Roberts based on my study of his resume, his conduct during the hearigns, and a conversation I had with him yesterday afternoon.  There is absolutely no doubt in my mind Judge Roberts is qualified to sit on the highest court in the land.  Moreover, he seems to have the comportment and the termperament that makes for a good judge.  He is humble, he is personally decent, and he appears to be respectful of different points of view."  Barack continued on and on.
That's a little more complicated than Jessi Klein and Danny Schechter want to make it.  But Barack's 2008 campaign ran on that sort of simplification.  Danny, it's "Jessi" and writing two episodes (two bad episodes, in fact) of Samantha Who? did not make Jessi a political scholar or, for that matter, informed.  But then you knew she wasn't informed when you read her.  It failed as political criticism and, like so much of her writing, it failed as comedy.  Stick to drooling over David Gergen, Jessi.
It was "stirring" -- gushes Danny of the inauguration -- of the pomp and assholeness of it all.  (And that's true of every inauguration.)  He confesses Iran's PRESS TV didn't "share my enthusiasm" and that an interviewer for South Africa media "was more focused on what policies, if any, would shift."  That should have been the first sign that there's a problem with your reaction. 
We could go line by line but we're wrapping up.  I will note that I attended the inauguration to see Joe Biden sworn in.  I didn't feel the need to go goo-goo-gaa-gaa.  I haven't written about it and don't intend to.  I'll leave the mash notes to our so-called 'independent' media.
Danny quotes AP (though it's not clear at his website that he's doing that) "Not since the September 2001 terrorist attacks have so many television networks shown such a unity of purpose, this time for a moment of hope."  Manufacturing of consent and Danny toiled in the TV industry long enough to grasp that without my pointing it out.  Then it's time for him to provide the transcript to the bad poem.  It's a really bad poem because it's neither the 19th nor 20th century currently. 
For a supposed new day dawning (those words top Danny's site currently), trying writing about today and not nostalgia.  What's really sad is Alexander doesn't even grasp that her Norman Rockwell garbage is neither realistic nor poetic.    She's got a teacher telling students to "take out your pencils" -- take out your pencils?  She apparently thinks it is 1899 and not 2009. She's then off to "dirt roads" and "highways."  She apparently even pre-dates the creation of the nation's interstates.
With no sense of irony, Danny then quotes Michael Parenti on, among other things, "conservative forces" who "continue to reject . . . publicly funded campaigns."  Who rejected public money?  Oh, yeah, War Hawk Corporatist Barack Obama. 
To Danny's e-mailer from Denmark, Barack Obama is not your president.  I am so sorry that you are so ashamed of your own country which you must think is pathetic and backwards.  But that's your problem.  This goes for people in Kenya (non-Obama family members), France and elswhere.  Barack is a citizen of the United States, elected to be the president of the United States.  Denmark and all the rest, don't whine about the US always trying to throw its weight around when your PATHETIC LIVES are so empty that all you can do is obsess over another country's leader. 
It really wasn't cute in Breaking Away when Dave was obsessed with a country other than his own, when he need to pretend he's from that country.  It was seen as adolescent and embarrassing and it's the main reason the box office for the film was so poor and why it ended up on NBC (broadcast TV) so quickly that it couldn't even go back into theaters after its Oscar win for best screenplay.  No one wants that crap.  No one wants some whiney ass obsessing about another country.  If you loathe Denmark so much, work on improving it.  If you're tired of the US throwing its weight around, stop hero worshipping the country. 
Is this the same crowd that worships Prince Harry and gets out the scones (even though they're not British or part of the United Kingdom) and tea for their 'wedding parties' anytime HRH has a family member getting married?  It's pathetic.  Do you not have lives to live?  They're the equivalent of rubber neckers passing a traffic accident but with their pinkies lifted.
John Pilger actually is independent and you can find him explain Barack here and here and here and here and here.  And you can find Danny telling the same or similar truths . . .   Where?
And now we move on to Liz Smith.  Liz apparently missed the news of the actor who will never play gay (because he is and he's in the closet) who got drunk last night at a ball,  mistook a high school junior for a trick and caused an ugly, ugly scene (that only got worse when the parents -- part of official Washington -- ended up involved).  Or maybe she's ignoring that scoop to cover for the actor?  I have no idea.  But I know what she's dishing out today is GARBAGE and needs to be called out. Liz wants everyone to leave Barry alone.  He's "historic" and people need to get out of his way, says the tall Texan before explaining:
I'm more worried about the Democrats and their mumbling about taking members of the Bush administration -- perhaps even the ex-president himself -- to legal task for eight years of ineptitude and possibly worse. Please! Nancy Pelosi, buy a clue. When your president talks about turning the page, he doesn't mean to have the country and media embroiled and obsessed with Bush and company for ages ahead.  I don't want to see or hear or concern myself with anything Bush from now on. Leave them all to heaven. 
Liz, Nancy's not the one who needs to buy a clue.  You're the damn fool who's clueless.  Now everyone was laughing at you two weeks ago when you were running with Tina Fey's p.r. that she and Sarah Palin were friends.  You got punked, Liz.  You're not going to get your credibility back by refusing to grasp the seriousness of what the Bully Boy did to this country.  You embarrass yourself.  You don't come off funny or hilarious.  You come off completely unconcerned with the law and more interested in covering up for torture than holding anyone accountable.  Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, really doesn't need your 'strong' 'editorials.'  Why don't you stick to who's sleeping with who and stay away from topics so clearly beyond your limited grasp?  For reality on the need to hold the previous administration accountable, see this by the Center for Constitutional Rights president Michael Ratner who also is a co-host of Law & Disorder along with Dalia Hashad, Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith.  And on Guantanamo, Barack's last public statements were they he would close it but would move the prisoners elsewhere. As Ava and I pointed out, "Believe it or not, the cry to close Guantanamo was not a cry for relocation. It was a cry for freedom. But Barack made clear to The Post that some people held at Guantanamo could not be convicted in a court of law because their 'confessions' resulted from torture." As Barack now indicates that even closing Guantanamo will take a year, the Center for Constitutional Right's Executive Director Vince Warren points out: "It only took days to put these men in Guantanamo, it shouldn't take a year to get them out."