Thursday, February 26, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, February 26, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, the Pentagon admits Iraq is still a war zone (admits under pressure, but admits nonetheless), England admits to taking part in renditions by turning over prisoners in Iraq to the US (the prisoners then whisked off to Afghanistan), Robert Gates announces that there is a change or will be or he's got a committee working on it or something, and a 'leader' disgraces themselves as they attempt to bicker and dicker with John Walsh at Dissident Voice
The UK Secretary of Defence is in the news today due to revelations he disclosed to the House of Commons today. 
Sec of Defense John Hutton: During the final stages of the review of records of detentions, we found information about one case relating to a security operation that was conducted in February 2004, a period which honorable members I'm sure will recall saw an increased level of insurgent activity as the transfer to Iraqi sovereignty drew closer.  During this operation, two individuals were captured by UK forces in and around Baghdad.  They were transferred to US detention in accordance with normal practice and then moved subsequently to a US detention facility in Afghanistan.  This information was brought to my attention on the first of December, 2008.  And I instructed officials to investigate this case thoroughly and quickly so I could bring a full account to Parliament.  Following consultations with US authorities we confirmed that they transferred these two individuals from Iraq to Afghanistan in 2004 and they remain in custody there today.  I regret that it is now clear that inaccurate information on this particular issue has been given to the House by my department.  I want to stress however that this was based upon the information available to ministers and those who were briefing them at the time.  My predecessors as secretaries of state for defense have confirmed to me that they had no knowledge of these events.  I have written to the honorable members concerned, correcting the record, and am placing a copy of these letters also in the library of the house.  And again, Madame Deputy Speaker, I want to apologize to the House for these errors.  The individuals transferred to Afghanistan are members of Laskar-e-Taiba, a proscribed organization with links to al Qaeda.  The US government has explained to us that they were moved to Afghanistan because of a lack of relevant linguists necessary to interrogate them effectively in Iraq.  The US has categorized them as unlawful enemy combatants and continues to review their status on a regular basis.  We have been assured that the detainees are held in a humane, safe and secure environment meeting international standards which are consistent with cultural and religious norms and the International Committee of the Red Cross has had regular access to the detainees.  A due diligence search by the US officials of the list of all those individuals captured by UK forces  and transferred to US detention facilities in Iraq has confirmed that this was the only case in which individuals were subsequently transferred outside of Iraq.  This review has established that officials were aware of this transfer in early 2004.  It has also shown that brief references to this case were included in lengthy papers that went to then-Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary in April 2006.  It is clear that the context provided did not highlight the significance at that point to my right honorable friends.  In retrospect, it is clear to me that the transfer to Afghanistan of these two individuals should have been questioned at the time. We have discussed the issues surrounding this case with the US government and they have reassured us about their treatment but confirmed that, as they continue to represent significant security concerns, it is neither possible or desirable to transfer them to either their country of detention or their country of origin.  
The "then-Foreign Secretary" was Jack Straw, the then-Home Secretaries were David Blunkett and Charles Clarke.  Were?  2004 is the year at issue, despite Hutton's reference to 2006, and Blunkett was the secretary until resigning in November of 2004 after his affair with Kimberly Fortier (married to Stephen Quinn then and now) was non-stop news for months and months. Clarke takes over mid-way through December 2004.   During the 2004 period, Geoff Hoon held the post Hutton does now (Sec of Defence).  David Byers (Times of London) appears to go with the 2006 date when naming who was in what position -- possibly due to the papers crossing desks in 2006 -- and Byers notes the Tory reaction to Hutton's admission via Crispin Blunt, "This statement avoids the principal public issue, which is the charge about complicity by United Kingdom forces operating in Iraq outside the multinational division south east.  This is a glaring hole and must be addressed."  Blunt (rightly) wanted to know what the ministers were doing in 2004 when this took place, "It is at the very least unfortunate that both officials and ministers overlooked the significance of these cases, nor least since the issue of rendition was already highly controversial."   James Kirkup (Telegraph of London) notes, "Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition, called for a full Government inquiry into all British links to rendition operations" and also Liberty's Shami Chakrabarti declaring, "This was rendition.  It was transfer of prisoners of a kind which had previously been denied."  And it was most likely torture.
It was not, as Hutton infers, following Geneva. The January 9th snapshot notes Patrick Leahy's Senate Judiciary Committee releasing three documents (all PDF format) and we emphasized the March 18, 2004 document "Re: 'Protected Persons' in Occupied Iraq."  This document was written prior to the transfer, in the year of the transfer.  Then-Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith wrote the memo.  Goldsmith memo clearly excludes the category the two Laskar-e-Taiba members would be in from the Geneva Conventions.  The group's name can be translated to Army of the Righteous or Army of the Pure and they were founded in Afghanistan and are thought to be based and operating from Pakistan currently.  On the last day of 2008, the New York Times ran an article by Richard A. Oppel Jr. about how US officials believe the ISI (Pakistan's version of the CIA) was providing protection and intelligence to Lashkar-e-Taiba. They are considered a terrorist organization by the UK, the European Union, Australia, the US, India and Russia, among others.  In his statement today, Hutton avoided mentioning the nationality of the prisoners transferred.  It is unlikely his omission was accidental.  Depending on their nationality, they have less and less 'rights' under US interpretation.  (For example, an Iraqi would have more rights than a Pakistani as the US elected to misinterpret Geneva in 2004.) Since he has repeated US government claims to the House of Commons and, in fact, vouched for them, Hutton should be asked to provide the nationality of the two prisoners transferred.  No prisoner transferred to Afghanistan from Iraq was 'assured' of any of the rights Hutton claimed.  And the reason for the transfer ("linguistics") was and is laughable.  Hutton either played the fool or tried to play the House of Commons for the fool.
Moving to the US where one liar-in-chief has been replaced another.  Earlier this morning, Barack Obama held a press conference and was asked by Ed Henry (CNN) about the ban on photographs of coffins at Dover?   Barack insisted that "we are in the process of reviewing those policies in conversations with the Department of Defense.  So I don't want to give you an answer now".  The next day, Robert Gates would announce the Pentagon would be doing a review.  Yes, that did make Barack a liar -- for claiming a review was ongoing when it had not been started.  Credit to Jamie McIntyre (American Journalism Review) who refused to give up journalism for hopium and instead noted, "The president responded with a classic dodge . . . While President Obama artfully avoided making a promise he might not want to keep, Henry had skillfully fulfilled one of journalism's basic functions: holding elected officials accountable for their own words. It's unclear whether the policy was truly under review before Henry's query put the president on the spot, but by the next day it plainly was."  (During the canonization of Saint Shinseki, McIntyre also refused to play along and called out Juan Cole and others on their 'creative' narratives which did not stick to the public record.)  Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reports that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates declared today that the ban was being dropped . . . sort-of.
That's always the problem with the Hopey Changey administration, nothing's ever done, it's almost done.  In this case Bobby Gates didn't return the country to the policy previously in place, he just decided a new policy has to be created.  Ken Fireman (Bloomberg News) explains Gates is saying "if their families agree" then photos of the coffins can be taken.  That's insane for a number of reasons.  First, coffins plural is often the case.  So Mr. X says no and every other family says yes, what happens? Or, as CNN points out, "Advocates of opening the base to coverage point out that the unmarked coffins make it impossible to identify specific remains."  Can't ask Gates because despite the claims of many outlets (Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, etc.) there is no policy in place.  As Ann Scott Tyson notes, Gates stated he needs "a group of advisers to come up with a plan on how to implement the new policy".  His exact words, not in the Washington Post piece, were, "I have tasked the working group to examine ways in whichw e might futher assist the families of those who made the surpreme sacrifice for our country" and he promised that they would meet the task quickly ("short deadlines").
Myron Pitts (Fayetteville Observer), when not bickering with readers, finds the time to praise Barack for the non-decision (Barack, that is kicking the can) and also to look heavenward and gasp about "a brighter light" that is now to "be shined on the financial costs of war, too.  On Tuesday, the president said in his speech that the budgets for Afghanistan and Iraq will no longer be discussed and consider separately from the larger budget.  This is also a good move.  By keeping off the budget its most expensive items, we as a people do not have a true estimate of the financial hole we are in."  "We as a people"?  As opposed to "we as a" what?  Bad writing isn't Myron's only problem.  At the Pentagon today, spokesperson Geoff Morrell (like Gates, he is a Bush era holdover) was asked about this 'brighter light' and whether or not Americans might see it in fiscal year 2010?  Morrell replied, "I am going to try to be as respectful of the process as I can be.  I believe OMB [Office of Man and Budget] is going to have an announcement tomorrow about top-line figures for agencies throughout the government.  I believe they will also announce a supplemental figure for this department for FY '10.  So I do believe there will be a war supplemental for FY '10." In other words, Myron, you won't be seeing the "brighter light" anytime soon.  Morrell continued, "Beyond that, the desire is, yes, to try to get away from supplementals and take those costs -- those recurring, predicatable war costs, seven, eight years into these conflicts -- and move them increasingly into the base budget."  Morrell was couching in that statement -- "desire" being the key word.  He continued to do so noting that a budget from the Pentagon for the wars is "our best guess" and "our best estimate" and "an educated guess, but a guess nonethelees and a placeholder" . . . In other words, Morrell doesn't believe the supplemental requests are going away.  And, Myron, burying the costs of two wars into the Pentagon's general budget doesn't allow for any more sunlight -- especially when those working on the budget will now have to sign non-disclosure forms and risk, as CNN's Barbara Starr pointed out today, criminal penalties.
But as Morrell put it when asked about how this "level of secrecy and control" being promoted by the new administration fits with a claim of transparency, "I don't think the administration has been advocating a -- transparency in national security matters."  Morrell was quite the dancer today as he agreed that these were not top secret issues but the fact that are not "marked 'secret' . . . [is] all the more reason for a nondisclosure agreement so that those matters could not be discussed as well." 
After that song and dance, it was time for Morrell to provide another one.
CNN's Barbara Starr: My question on Iraq and residual forces, regardless of what withdrawal schedule is announced, everyone seems to agree -- and I think you guys have said it -- that there will be some residual force in Iraq for some period of time.  Can you help people understand what those forces who will stay behind, what they will do, what their job will be and ho much they still may -- on a given day -- be in combat?
Geoff Morrell: Again, I -- I guess there will be an announcement this week from the White House about a way ahead in Iraq, and it could very well deal with residual forces as well.  I can just speak to what the president and what the secretary have said about this in the past and they've both been forthright about their belief that a residual force of some size -- and the secretary has spoken in - in terms of tens of thousands of forces -- will be required after combat brigades have been drawn down, or draw down and out of Iraq.  And the three basic areas where those forces would concentrate -- and, again, this is something the president and the secretary have spoken to -- are, number one, continuing to advise and assist the Iraqi security forces, continuting to advise and assist the Iraqi security forces, continue to help them train and equip, and support them in their operations.  Number two, this force of whatever size it turns out to be would also conduct intelligence-driven, warrant-based combat operations against -- against terrorists, and tehy would do so assisting Iraqi security forces, who would be in the lead.  And lastly, they would be required to protect American personnel and other U.S. assets in Iraq.  So those are the three fundamental areas.   But, you know, I've heard all this talk about it's diseingenous to say that combat forces are being drawn down; all forces are combat forces, and those that remain will be combat forces.
Morrell then got lost in that and attempting to sell "enablers" or "support troops" as the terms for the media to use as he insisted that carrying "a sidearm" in a theater of war does not mean you are part of "a combat mission."  Starr didn't let him dance so easily.
CNN's Barbara Starr: But then let me ask you, if you're saying these US troops in these type of functions, which you've just said will be equipped with sidearms -- not equipped for combat.  Nonetheless, sadly, it's probably likely that some of them will lose their lives at some point in the coming years in Iraq.  For purposes of that, will these troops have -- if they are killed by enemy forces, will they be killed in combat?  Will these people -- will this be a war zone for them?
Geoff Morrell: I think Iraq will -- is still considered a war zone.  Yes.
CNN's Barbara Starr: So these people, if they perish in this, they will be killed in combat?
Geoff Morrell: But, Barbara, we have people who are right now performing support missions -- support functions --  who, sadly, have been killed in theater and they are considered killed in combat.  Yes. [. . .] Or killed in action, I should say.
Yes, Iraq will still be a war zone. The Pentagon grasps that, even if some news outlets do not.  Peter Baker and Thom Shanker (New York Times) cover the non-withrawal 'withdrawal' this morning and note an announcement is expected Friday.  Thomas E. Ricks (author of the just released book The Gamblesays, "Watch this phrase: 'Residual force.' I think it will be President Obama's term for what he hopes to have in Iraq by the end of next year."  As Ricks has long noted elections are supposed to take place in December (though, it being Iraq, who knows when they may take place) and Baker and Shanker note that the plan Barack will present allegedly requires no significant departures prior to the elections. Baker and Shanker note that Nancy Pelosi, Speaker fo the House, isn't apparently going to skip happily along with something just because Barack wants it. The reporters quote her stating, "I don't know what the justification is for 50,000. I would think a third of that, maybe 20,000, a little more than a third, 15,000 or 20,000."  By refusing to end the illegal war immediately, Caren Bohan and Jeff Mason (Reuters) report Barack plans to spend $140 billion this year alone on continuing the killing in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And Patrick Worsnip and Eric Walsh (Reuters) report something even more distrubing, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, and noted War Hawk and Liar, Susan Rice declared at the UN today, "Our bilateral security agreement with Iraq will frame the path ahead."  Really?  That's what Barack wants to send out?  "We're going to use George W. Bush as our role model?"  Really?  What a proud moment for all the members of St. Barack's Cult.
In the real world today . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that cliamed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and left ten people injured, another Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded three police officers, a Mosul roadside bombing which injured three people and another Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more injured.
Meanwhile Campbell Robertson and James Glanz (New York Times) report on Iraq's budgetary and monetary problems -- and, the reporters say, the need for a dependancy upon something other than oil -- such as agriculture.  But if things are so bad economically, how can Iraq be having a new housing boom?  Oh, that's right, they aren't.  It was just another lie from crazy Patrick Cockburn.
An MP remains on the run.  Marc Santora (New York Times) covers the missing Iraqi MP as do Tina Susman and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times). "He" is Mohammad al-Daini who has been publicly accused by al-Maliki's government of various crimes in what can only be an attempt to try him outside a court of law. For the record, law enforcement does not play confessions when announcing suspects. Evidence is introduced in a court of law. Proving how for-show the whole thing is, Santora notes al-Daini was under 'surveillance' and his departure to Jordan could hardly have been unknown. But it wasn't until he was in Jordanian air space that the order came to "turn this crazy bird around, shouldn't have gotten on this flight tonight" ("This Flight Tonight," Joni Mitchell, first appears on Blue). His flight then returned to Iraq and he is now 'missing.' Susman and Salman pick up there noting that there was no arrest of him nor was he taken into custody or detained when deboarding in Iraq. His own security detail greeted him and escorted him from the airport. Now a 'manhunt' is ongoing. (See Rebecca from last night on that and use the link she provides.)
Though he can't be found, someone appeared in court today. Last night Mike noted Quentin Wilber (Washington Post) reporting on Dutch citizen Wesam al-Delaema whow as to stand trial today in the United States on charges of "conspiring to murder U.S. citizens and possessing a destructive device during a crime of violence."  That would be in Iraq, where al-Delaema was born.  James Vicini and David Storey (Reuters) report that he entered a plea of guilty and will be sentenced April 15th but will serve his time in the Netherlands under a deal made between the two countries.
In rumor news, UPI reports that one time CIA asset Iyad Allawi, now head of the Iraqi National List, denies a conspiracy to oust Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister (a post Allawi once held) and notes that any no-confidence vote Parliament might take is not a conpiracy
but "a democratic practice that is approved by the constitution."
Turning to the US and those 'leaders' of the peace movement -- those self-appointed 'leaders.'  Insert the line Judith Beasley (Lily Tomlin) offers in The Incredible Shrinking Woman (written by Jane Wagner who has a birthday today) about seeing "a grown woman cheapen herself by lying to her neighbors."  Why?  Because Laura Bonham's done just that.  Bonahm, the communications coordinator of 'Progressive' Democrats for America takes to the comments of John Walsh's Dissident Voice article to lie and lie again.  She's either lying or brain dead.  We'll just focus on one: "PDA did not endorse Obama; he did not meet the criteria." Presumably, Laura can remember Steve Cobble, who co-founded PDA and who wrote "Barack the Vote In the Remaining States" which PDA published March 24, 2008.  "To me," Steve wrote, "that says it's time to help Senator Obama win the nomination.  It's time for those of us who support Obama in PDA to help 'Barack the Vote' in the remaining handful of states."  (Typical of Steve -- and of Pathetic Democrats of America -- only in pushing a man could they "make history during this incredible race.")  On the same day, the only pro-Hillary article by PDA was published (US House Rep Jim McGovern's column). They didn't endorse, mind you, they just spat on Hillary every day by republishing the idiotic ravings of John Nichols -- ravings we may revisit at Third on Sunday because they do not and did not pass a basic fact check.  Norman Solomon -- Pathetic Democrats of America member and Barack delegate -- and many others were able to serve up crap over and over but there was no endorsement?  Or are we pretending Tom Hayden's disgusting endorsement doesn't count?  Pathetic Democrats of America endorsed Barack Obama and they did so in word and in action -- they did so by reposting "Clinton's Cringe-Worthy Moment" and all the other garbage they hurled at her.  Laura, you're a liar.  That's the one thing a 'communications coordinator' cannot be known as.  Instead of showing up to whine "Don't blame us for the War Hawk Barack," you should have taken some damn accountability.  Your pathetic organization should have taken accountability for its non-stop LYING.
That includes reposting John Nichols bad garbage that is riddled with errors.  It includes posting Dave Lindorff's lie October 16th where he claims he was going to vote for Ralph Nader but had just decided to vote for Barack ("Why I'm Voting for Barack Obama on November 4").  Dave Lindorff decided  by at least February 2008 to vote for Barack.  David is "The Sad Rot of the Left" for those idiots who haven't caught on yet.  That's his e-mail bragging about Barack as "a black candidate who has risked jail by doing drugs". That's Dave's garbage and PDA and Dave can lie all they damn well want but I've read Dave's entire e-mail and not just the section Third chose to publish.  Dave LIED October 16th and PDA let him LIE.  Progressive Democrats of America is nothing but liars and until they get accountable, nothing's going to change.
I was being kind -- mainly because I like Norman -- and ignoring his column at CounterPunch yesterday but, Laura, when you LIE, it has consequences.  So let's go to Norman Solomon's column where he writes:
I don't often make predictions, but I'm confident about this one: Within a few years, some members of Congress, and leaders of some progressive groups with huge email lists, will look back with regret as they recall their failure to clearly and openly oppose the pivotal escalation of the Afghan war.
Norman might have helped the country had he not made 'predictions' about Barack throughout the primaries including before he saw fit to inform his readers he was already a delegate for Barack.  While I agree to a large degree with what Norman says in the paragraph above the thing is, I said that.  I said it throughout 2007 and 2008.  Norman didn't say a damn word.  He was far from alone.  Barack's desire to 'surge' in Afghanistan is not something that just emerged in 2009 or immediately after the election.  Barack was always upfront about it and the left ignored it.  Phyllis Bennis (whom I like) looked like a real fool frequently in 2008 giving lukewarm support to Barack when she should have been calling him out instead of pretending she was Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice choosing which of her children would live: Iraq or Afghanistan?
Laura's a fraud and fake.  John Walsh has written about Barack's craven and gutless positions on Iraq and Afghanistan and documented the sell-outs who allow the positions to go unchallenged -- which includes PDA -- and Laura's off yammering about Israel.  Yammering about every damn thing under the sun except, you guessed it, the IRAQ WAR.
Laura wants people to visit PDA's home page.  I'm counting 21 articles on the home page and not one about Iraq.  Pakistan?  You got it.  Iraq?  No.  You can find the closet case whose gay ass needs to be outed dithering in his usual manner, for example, but you can't find Iraq.  And, point of fact, when a man's over sixty-years-old and identifies as a 'progressive,' he needs to take his ass out of the closet and if the words "I am gay" are too much for him to manage, maybe he needs to be outed?  (The man is not named in this entry.  His visits to gay bookstores across the country are legendary because the only thing his hands don't touch are the books -- unless he's autographing one.) But that's typical of PDA, where every gathering turns into a truth game. 
What PDA can't do, the grown ups can.  March 21st an action takes place and organizations participating include The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War. Here's IVAW's announcement of the March action:   

IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21stAs an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.)                                 
To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately.For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: or