Friday, January 23, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Friday, January 23, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, KBR appears guilty in the death of a US service member who was electrocuted, provincial elections loom and more.
Having failed to snag an invite to this week's earlier power-breakfast with the military, Nancy A. Youssef cracked open her little black book and pulled a few strings.  Why McClatchy's one-time ace reported bothered is the only puzzler?  What she scribbles is an insult to not only journalism but the collective intelligence as well.  Gen James Conway announced (over breakfast tacos?), "The times is right for Marines to leave Iraq."  Nance tosses around the name "Barack" and we're all supposed to see this as some sort "New World Coming" (sing it, Cass).  Hamlet declared, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horaito, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."  Someone needs to explain, "There was a world before this week, Nancy, and it's a well documented one."  Translation?  Thom Shanker (New York Times) was reporting what Nance stumbled upon and was reporting in October of 2007: "The Marine Corps is pressing to remove its forces from Iraq and to send marines instead to Afghanistan, to take over the leading role in combat there, according to senior military and Pentagon officials."  The same day Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) was covering the story and explaining, "The proposal, discussed at senior levels of the Pentagon last week, would have the Marine Corps replace the Army as the lead U.S. force in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops number more than 25,000 and make up the largest contingent of the NATO-led force there. . . .  Marine Corps officers who have served in Iraq expressed enthusiasm for the idea, which would in essence allow the service to extricate itself from the increasingly unpopular and costly Iraq war. . . . Senior Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, have not publicly spoken of the issue.  Officers knowledgeable of the Marine Corps' push for the new mission did not characterize it as a formal plan."  August 2008, CNN quoted Conway stating, "To do more in Afghanistan, our Marines have got to see relief elsewhere."  Liam Stack (Christian Science Monitor) in August noted, "American and Iraqi officials announced on Wednesday that United States forces would hand over control of the Anbar Province, the scene of some of the war's most gruesome violence, to the Iraqi military as soon as next Monday.  Most of the departing US soldiers are marines, many of whom will be sent to Afghanistan, where conflict has renewed between NATO forces and a resurgent Taliban."  Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) explained in November, "The Marines have long made no secret of their desire to depart from Iraq and redeploy to Afghanistan, where they were the first conventional U.S. troops in 2001 to invade the country to assist local forces in toppling the Taliban regime."  And in December, Cami McCormick (CBS Radio News) reported, "The Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps says it's 'high time' his troops leave Iraq and take their battle skills to Afghanistan.  'We are a fighting maching,'  Gen. James Conway tells CBS News, and the fight is now in Afghanistan."  None of that 15-month public history makes it into Youssef's 'report.'  Nancy's too busy mouthing, "Now I have a song inside, The birds sing to me, I finally can be, Free to spread my wings in harmony" (Diana Ross' "Every Day Is A New Day").
Ron Jacobs (CounterPunch) calls out the nonsense of 'noble war' Afghanistan and addresses Iraq concluding, "There are at least two antiwar protests coming up in spring 2009.  If Barack Obama is not taking the path towards peace that he was elected to take by then, it is essential that those who voted for him with the understanding that US troops would be leaving Iraq (and not going to Afghanistan) attend at least one of these protests.  That is what democracy really means." I've chosen that quote but, for any who don't use the link, Jacobs is absolutely not saying, "Wait until the protests." He is calling for action and calling for it right now. Military Families Speak Out is staging "The Change WE Need" from Feburary 6th to 9th in DC which will include marching from Arlington National Cementery to the White House. A.N.S.W.E.R. is among the organizations sponsoring March 21st "Bring the Troops Home Now" rally and march in DC.  Dropping back to CounterPunch, Alexander Cockburn writes, "But credit where credit is due.  On his second day in the White House Jimmy Carter amnestied Vietnam draft dodgers and war resisters."  Then blah blah on Barack.  Jimmy Carter did that, Alex?  No, he sure as hell as did not do what you say he did.  I guess it's easy to treat Jimmy Carter as heroic if you invent actions he never took.  War resisters during Vietnam were draft dodgers and deserters.  The first category -- and only the first category -- got amnesty from Carter.  You can click here for CBC reporting on that (January 21, 1977) and the reaction in Canada.  Also on January 21st -- and note, January 21st.  Barack's praise from Alex is over Jan. 22nd.  His second full day in office. Jimmy Carter pardoned draft dodgers on his first day in office -- and, yes, that is important.  January 21, 1977, The MacNeil/Lehrer Report (now The NewsHour) featured a discussion on Carter's actions that day. Americans for Amnesty's Louise Ransom was vocal about all war resisters (and protestors) needing amnesty.  On the broadcast was Elizabeth Holtzman who was then a US House Rep.  I like Liz, I've known her for many years.  But what she did is something everyone should learn from because it should not repeat today.  She was "pleased" (you know it because she used the phrase "I'm pleased" three times in her first sentence) but, "I would have liked to have seen it broader, I would like to have seen it extend to some of the people who are clearly not covered and whose families will continue to be separated from them . . . but I don't think President Carter has closed the door on this category of people."  She didn't think?

It's a good thing she didn't wager a bet.  That was it.  Carter didn't do another damn thing.  And those of us calling for more were told, "We can't pressure him.  He'll get to it."  No, he wouldn't and, no, he didn't.  It sure is cute of Alex to come along all this time later and give Carter credit for something he never did.  It sure is cute of Alex to rewrite history.  (In fairness, he doesn't know the history.  Vietnam wasn't personally pressing to him in real time for obvious reasons -- he was Irish, not American, and when he came to the US he was well beyond drafting age for male citizens.)  Credit where it's due?  Jimmy Carter earns no credit for that.  He did as little as possible and he only did that much because he was pressured.  Ford had already offered a program (that you had to jump through hoops for) that covered draft dodgers and deserters.  Carter was running against Ford and there was a real peace movement in America at that time -- not the fake crap offered by the pathetic creatures trying to pass for 'leaders' today.  Demands were made on him.

That's the only reason he followed through on draft dodgers (which he had spoken of to the Veterans of Foreign Wars' convention during his 1976 presidential campaign) was because there was pressure.  Gerald Ford was considering pardons for war resisters as he left office but it was thought Carter would take care of it.  Carter didn't.  He only took care of draft dodgers.  And as wonderful as Liz Holtzman can be, she was dead wrong about America 'hoping' Jimmy would find time to revist the issue.  He didn't get serious pressure and he never revisted it.  There's a lesson in there for today's activism -- although that's a joke.  Outside of a few groups, there's no activism going on.  Just a lot of embarrassments (see Mike calling out the Center for Constitutional Rights over their fondling of Barack).  History isn't just a bunch of memorized items.  It either has real-life, current applications or it's trivia and not history.
Wednesday's Free Speech Radio News included this item by Mark Taylor-Canfield in the headlines:
Hundreds of US soldiers have relocated to Canada, Europe or LatinAmerica after choosing not to serve in the US war and occupation in Iraq. Many of the soldiers have gone into Canada by crossing the border between Washington State and British Columbia, which also served as a point of entry for conscientious objectors escaping toCanada during the US war in Vietnam.  Now Project Safe Haven is calling on President Barack Obama to grant immediate amnesty to all US war resisters who have refused to serve in Iraq. 
The group is also calling for the immediate withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq and an end to the war in Afghanistan. Other demands include reparations for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and full benefits and healthcare for US military veterans. 
According to Project Safe Haven organizer Gerry Condon, the petition was circulated among national anti-war and veterans groups and was delivered to the President-elect's transition team.
Gerry Condon has posted a transcript at his site and you can find out more information there.  We noted here throughout 2007 and 2008 that the Democratic candidates were not being asked about amnesty.  Had they been asked when US House Rep Dennis Kucinich and former US Senator Mike Gravel were in the race, others might have been forced to say they'd at least consider that or look into it.  We noted after the nomination was given to Barack that he needed to be pressed on the issue of war resisters.  In 1972, the peace movement pressured.  McGovern had to promise amnesty and Nixon upped his lies that he was ending that illegal war because of pressure from the peace movement.  McGovern didn't lose because he was forced to publicly support amnesty.  And by McGovern doing that, it made it easier for Gerald Ford to do his program when he became president.  The pressure on McGovern, Ford and Carter was serious pressure and it vanished on Carter shortly after he was sworn in.  Barack should have been pressured on the issue sometime ago.  He wasn't.  That doesn't mean serious pressure can't be applied now.  Especially on a president who claimed (lied) that he was always against the Iraq War and that was proof of his superior judgment.  For those who lacked that superior judgment, you know, mere mortals, Barack should be more than willing to pardon them.  And a real movement, a real peace movement, would be pressuring him to do so.
But we don't have a peace movement in the United States and we don't have a Dove for a president.  We have a Corporatist War Hawk that people are so scared and reluctant to call out.  Which, as Paul Street (ZNet) points outs, was the entire of point:
At the same time, many of his elite sponsors have certainly long understood that Obama's technical blackness helps make him uniquely qualified to simultaneously surf, de-fang, and "manage" the U.S. citizenry's rising hopes for democratic transformation in the wake of the long national Bush-Cheney nightmare. As John Pilger argued last May: "What is Obama's attraction to big business?  Precisely the same as Robert Kennedy's [in 1968].  By offering a 'new,' young and apparently progressive face of Democratic Party - with the bonus of being a member of the black elite - he can blunt and divert real opposition.  That was Colin Powell's role as Bush's secretary of state. An Obama victory will bring intense pressure on the US antiwar and social justice movements to accept a Democratic administration for all its faults.  If that happens, domestic resistance to rapacious America will fall silent."   
Obama's race is part of what makes him so well matched to the tasks of mass pacification and popular "expectation management" (former Obama advisor Samantha Power's revealing phrase). As Aurora Levins Morales noted in Z Magazine last April, "This election is about finding a CEO capable of holding domestic constituencies in check as they are further disenfranchised and....[about] mak[ing] them feel that they have a stake in the military aggressiveness that the ruling class believes is necessary.  Having a black man and a white woman run helps...make oppressed people feel compelled to protect them."
Paul Street is the author of Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics  -- one of three books in 2008 this community found worthy of praise.  On the subject of books, Gerald Nicosia (San Francisco Chronicle) praises two new books today Aaron Glantz' The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle Against America's Veterans is the first, "What makes 'The War Comes Home' such a powerful plea is that Glantz admits his initial bias against the vets - they were the ones who caused all the misery among the poor Afghans and Iraqis. But his eventual realization that both reporter and soldier are common victims of a government that wages such wars allowed him to identify with the vets and to empathize with their struggles."  Iraq Veterans Against the War and Glantz' Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations is the second, "Like 'The War Comes Home,' 'Winter Soldier' makes us feel the pain and despair endured by those who serve in a military stretched to the breaking point by stop-loss policies, multiple combat tours, and a war where the goals and the enemies keep shifting. But these books also make us admire the unbreakable idealism and hope of those men and women who still believe that by speaking out they can make things better both for themselves and for those who come after them."
Someone will come after Ryan Crocker.  He is the outgoing US Ambassador to Iraq.  Anthony Shadid (Washington Post), Timothy Williams (New York Times), and Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (All Things Considered) cover that in various degrees.  A propaganda outlet outdoes them,  Meredith Buel's Voice of America report.  So does Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times):
Obama would like to have all the troops out by spring 2010. An agreement forged by the Bush administration and the Iraqi government calls for the last troops to leave by the end of 2011, though it is subject to change. 
Whatever happens, the ambassador said that if it were to be a "precipitous withdrawal, that could be very dangerous." Crocker said he was confident that was not the direction Obama was going. However, the president campaigned on a promise to end the war in Iraq, and with violence at its lowest level since 2003 and commanders in Afghanistan saying they need more troops, Obama will face pressure to move quickly on his campaign vow.  
In a conference call Wednesday night with Obama, Crocker said, he and the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. Ray Odierno, gave their assessments of the security situation in Iraq. He would not say what they told the president, though Odierno has also urged caution in reducing forces.
Provincial elections are scheduled to take place in fourteen of Iraq's eighteen provinces on January 31st.  Afif Sarhan (Islam Online) offers some numbers including that 100,000 is the number of internal refugees in Iraq who've signed up to vote. To put the number into context, International Organization for Migration Iraq's most recent report on internal refugees put the number at 2.8 million. (That report was released this month. PDF format warning, click here.) Sarhan notes approximately "2.9 million Iraqis are registered to vote" -- that's all Iraqis registered -- and internal refugee Wissam Muhammed explains he can't travel to Baghdad to vote: "We don't have money to go to the polling stations.  Few displacement camps will have the chance to have a moving station or be driven by someone to vote.  In our case, like many other displaced families here [Babel], our polling station is in in Baghdad and we cannot vote here."  Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) observes, "This year, campaigning falls during the 40 days of mourning for the death of Imam Hussein and election posters compete for space with Shiite flags on buildings, concrete walls and intersections."  Viet Nam News explains, "Bombings and the assassination of candidates have increased as the election approaches prompting widespread fear that the vote may spark a new round of bloodshed.  Although the incidents cannot prevent the election, they confirm the ferocity of the continuing power struggle."  Walled Ibrahim, Fadhel al-Badrani, Tim Cocks, Michael Christie and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) report on the Sunni participation efforts in Ramadi and Falluja, "Sitting beneath a photograph of his smiling son, killed by al Qaeda militants two years ago, Sheikh Amir Ali al-Sulaiman said he couldn't wait to stand for a seat in Jan. 31 local elections, after he boycotted the last ones in January 2005."  They quote him stating, "We are determined to participate to reclaim what we missed out of before.  We urge people to vote this time."  Nouri al-Maliki is hoping to fix the vote and, most recently, attempted to force out a police chief.  Stanford's Joel Brinkley (McClatchy Newspapers) explains:.
Maliki claimed that this man, Maj. Gen. Abdul Haneen al-Amara, was failing to uphold election laws because he hadn't prosecuted anyone for tearing down campaign posters that candidates from Maliki's political party had put up.  
The good news is not that Maliki decided to fire him. No, the encouraging development is that Maliki's decision caused a controversy. His political opponents protested and refused to accept the president's choice of a replacement. In Washington two years ago, the Senate set about changing the law that permitted the president to appoint U.S. attorneys without the Senate's consent. Isn't that the way a democracy is supposed to work? When the United States drafted its Constitution more than 220 years ago, the founders had few real historical precedents on which to base their decisions. That's what makes the document such a work of genius. Of course, by the time the United States began pushing Iraq to create a democratic government, starting in 2003, much of the world had already made that transition. The problems and possibilities were well-known.
McClatchy Newspapers readers will be learning about those attempted tricks in Wasit Province for the first time because, while Timothy Williams and Mudhafer al-Husaini (New York Times) reported on them, McClatchy never found the time. Maybe their partners at the Institute for War & Peace Reporting didn't think it was news?  (Ruth covers some of the critiques on IWPR.)
Provincial elections are eight days away.
Today Al Jazeera reports 8 family members were killed in a home invasion late last night (11:30 p.m.) outside Balad Ruz while two more people (presumably also family members) were kidnapped during the home invasion: "The family members, who are all Sunni Muslim Arabs, were targeted in the predominantly Shia Muslim village a week before provincial elections." Citing an unnamed police official, Pakistan's GEOtv states 9 family members were killed in the home invasion.  Khalid al-Ansary, Tim Cocks and Janet Lawrence (Reuters) report it was eight people and, "The attack at 11.30 p.m. on Thursday (2030 GMT) evoked memories of the tit-for-tat sectarian slaughter that nearly tore Iraq apart in 2006-2007, which has only recently subsided."
In some of today's other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left two people wounded.

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that a Wasit home invasion (Thursday night) claimed 4 lives ("the mother, father, daughter and baby son").
Iraq Body Count includes the Wasit home invasion in Thursday's violence and state the day resulted in 9 deaths including 3 brothers killed in Mosul during a US house raid.  It sure is interesting how Mosul -- the center of violence more and more -- gets ignored in daily violence reports.  It's also interesting that this is billed "US forces raid house" when allegedly the Iraqis had taken on control.
This morning the US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- A Multi-National Division - Center Soldier died in a non-combat related vehicle accident Jan. 22. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending next-of-kin notification and release by the Department of Defense. The incident is currently under investigation." ICCC lists the total number of US service members killed in Iraq at 4230.
Meanwhile KBR and its former parent Halliburton collect bad press like treasured coins.  Peter Spiegel (Los Angeles Times) reports the latest scandal from those who sought to make a buck cheaply off an illegal war: "An Army criminal investigator told the family of a Green Beret who was electrocuted while taking a shower at his base in Baghdad that the soldier's death was a case of "negligent homicide" by military contractor KBR and two of its supervisors.  The report last month to the family of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth said Houston-based KBR failed to make certain that qualified electricians and plumbers were working on the barracks where Maseth was killed a year ago, according to a U.S. government official who has seen the correspondence."  James Risen (New York Times) notes the response from the Vultures, Heather Browne (publicity hack) declares, "KBR's investigation has produced no evidence that KBR was responsible for Sergeant Maseth's death."  You get the feeling teachers knew not to leave the classrooms when KRB execs were taking tests?  Scott Bronstein and Abbie Boudreau (CNN) provides this background:

CNN first reported the death of Maseth, a highly decorated, 24-year-old Green Beret, last spring. His January 2, 2008, death was just one of many fatalities now believed to be linked to shoddy electrical work at U.S. bases managed by U.S. contractors, according to Pentagon sources. 
The Pentagon's Defense Contract Management Agency last year gave KBR a "Level III Corrective Action Request" -- issued only when a contractor is found in "serious non-compliance" and just one step below the possibility of suspending or terminating a contract, Pentagon officials said.  
In KBR's case, it means the contractor's inspections and efforts to ensure electrical safety for troops have been unacceptable and must be significantly improved, Pentagon sources told CNN.
Carolyn Lochhead (San Francisco Chronicle) reports, "On her first day at the helm of the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein vowed that never again would there be 'a National Intelligence Estimate that was as bad and wrong as the Iraq NIE was" before continuing, "I voted to support the war because of that and I have to live with that vote for the rest of my life.  And I don't want it to ever happen again."  Good for DiFi and I mean that sincerely.  Better would be grasping Dennis Blair will be a blight on any administration but good for her on that.  While Dianne is the new Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Hillary Clinton is the new Secretary of State and we noted that yesterday but I forgot to ask that a link to Marcia's Wednesday post on that be included.  My apologies, that was my error.
Moving to those who never take accountability, dumb reporters.  A number pimped the joy, the absolute and total joy among the troops over the inauguration.  As if all Americans could ever agree on anything.  Richard Sisk (New York Daily News), meet reality.  Deborah Haynes (Times of London's Inside Iraq):
Many US soldiers in Iraq watched the inauguration of their new President on television, with opinion split over whether Barak Obama will make a better commander-in-chief than George Bush. 
Some troopers cheer the change at the top, welcoming the back of a President who led the United States into two wars during his time in the White House. 
 Others, however, deliberately skipped the historic swearing in of their country's first African-American leader because they are wary of his military ideas on the way forwards in Iraq.
Public radio notes for Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, all air on WBAI:
Sunday, January 25, 11am-noon


Post-Warholian radio artists Andrew Andrew hold the fort.

Monday, January 26, 2-3pm


Playwright William M, Hoffman and actor David Greenspan on the
premiere of "Cornbury: The Queen's Governor," Hoffman's satirical
collaboration with the late Anthony Holland about a cross-dressing New
York governor
; Artistic Director Scott Morfee on "Fortnight," a
festival of new and improvised works at The Barrow Street Theatre; and
producer Scott Griffin on the landlord-tenant crisis at The Chelsea,
"the hotel where Dylan Thomas drank and Arthur Miller wrote and. . ."
Hosted by Janet Coleman and David Dozer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2-3pm


Gloves-off satire to greet the new bunch with Janet Coleman, David
Dozer, John McDonagh, Moogy Klingman, Scooter, Otis Maclay, Paul
, Jon Swift, The Capitol Steps, Red State Update and the great
Will Durst.

Broadcasting at WBAI/NY 99.5 FM
Streaming live at WBAI
Archived at Cat Radio Cafe
Public television?  . NOW on PBS actually examines the economic meltdown's effect on older Americans: "The economic crisis is affecting people in all income and social brackets, but America's baby boomers and seniors don't have the option to wait it out.  The housing meltdown, market crash, and rising costs of everything from food to medicine have taken the luster out of seniors' 'golden years' or worse, put them into deep debt."  That begins airing tonight on most PBS stations.  Washington Week also begins airing tonight on many PBS stations and Gwen chats with Dan Balz (Washington Post), Martha Raddatz (ABC News) and Pete Williams (NBC News) while Time magazine's Karen Tumulty offers a new Bette Davis impersonation this go round -- the later stages of the party scene in All About Eve, watch as she decrees that the week's ceremonies were 'historical' and 'fantastic' but "it's going to be a bumpy night."
 And on broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, no 60 Minutes:

"The Winter Of Our Hardship"
Scott Pelley reports on Wilmington, Ohio, whose residents have been hit particularly hard in this economic crisis because the town's largest employer, DHL, is shutting its domestic operation. | Watch Video

No Peace Deal
Bob Simon reports from Israel and the West Bank where a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians say that a two-state solution is no longer possible.

Wine Rx
Scientists have found a substance called resveratrol in red wine that slows down the aging process in mice. Will it someday lengthen the lives of humans, too? Morley Safer reports.

60 Minutes, this Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.