Friday, April 10, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Friday, April 10, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces multiple deaths, violence strikes a Baghdad neighborhood for the third time this week, the US employment crisis' impact on the military, Diane Rehm's embarrassing embarace of sexism, and more.
Today the US military announced: "Five U.S. Coalition Soldiers were killed, and one wounded from a suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive device attack earlier today in Mosul. Two Iraqi Security Forces were also killed and 20 wounded. The suicide truck bomb exploded near the Iraqi National Police headquarters in the southwest section of the city. At least two individuals suspected of being involved in the attack were detained, and the incident is under investigation. The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense." The five deaths bring the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4271Leila Fadel, Corrine Reilly and Ali Abbas (McClatchy Newspapers) observe, "It is the single deadliest incident to befall American troops here in more than a year."  They also note that two other US soldiers -- not one -- were injured the bombing.  Jomana Karadsheh (CNN -- link has video option which is a report by Frederik Pleitgen) notes one Iraqi soldier was killed in the bombing as well.  Frederik Pleitgen explains the bomber "steered his truck into the compound of the National Police in southwestern Mosul.  He then breached the sort of first layer of security in that compound and detonated his charge and we know five US soldiers have been confirmed dead, two US soldiers have been confirmed wounded also at least two Iraqi security forces have been confirmed dead and several dozen have been confirmed wounded -- most of those civilians -- is what we're hearing from the Iraqi security forces."  Following the breach "of first layer of security," apparently, Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports, "US and Iraqi forces opened fire on the truck after it ignored a request to stop at a checkpoint on the approach to the base."  Haynes quotes Interior Ministry spokesperson Karim Khalaf stating, "The truck exploded 50 metres before reaching its target." BBC states, "Reports said the bomber made a sharp turn as he neared the station and charged the truck through an iron fence, careering into a sandbagged wall beyond." Sam Dagher (New York Times) adds, "The Interior Ministry's spokesman, Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, told the state television station network Iraqiya that the truck was packed with about 2,000 pounds of explosives."  Xinhau states "the police station and some nearby buildings in the neighborhood were severely damaged by the explosion".  In a news brief, PBS' The NewsHour notes three buildings were brought down and apartments were rattled while quoting Amjad Akram stating, "Everything was broken in my home, my refrigerator, my TV, my furniture.  The smoke was so thick we couldn't see each other."  Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) explains, "The attack comes a day after the six year anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.  Many hard-line supporters of Saddam Hussein found refuge in Mosul after the U.S. invasion. Crackdowns on other insurgent strongholds in Iraq prompted extremists to move to that area in recent years."   (Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times, filed on the bombing as well.)  Amanda Ruggeri (US News & World Reports) observes that the bombing "comes on the heels of a particularly bloody few days. Most of the violence had been focused in Baghdad, where more than 50 people were killed in bombings this week."  Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report the death toll as 5 US soldiers and 2 Iraqi National Police with sixty-two people injured ("20 of whom were Iraqi security personnel"). (They note one US soldier wounded, that number has risen to two.)
Deborah Haynes notes that the bombing comes after the top US commander in Iraq has stated that US forces may remain in Iraq cities past June.  Haynes interviewed Gen Ray Odierno who said "that US combat troops might have to stay beyond June 30 in Mosul and Baqubah, where al-Qaeda retains an active presence.  'The two areas I am concerned with are Mosul and the Baqubah and [other] parts of Diyala province,' he said. 'We will conduct assessments and provide our assessments when the time is right'."  The June 30th removal from Iraqi cities (and retreating to US bases within Iraq) is in the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement.  For some time, chatter has been that the June 30th removal would not be kept and puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki has even suggested publicly that US forces remaining in some Iraqi cities might be a good idea; however, this is the first on-the-record floating by a named member of the US military.  (We went over the SOFA last night.  For those drive-bys who couldn't grasp it or didn't want to, this AP article on the 5 deaths explains the same point -- third paragraph from the end.)  Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) adds Odierno "said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was expected to ask US forces to stay in Mosul and in Baquba in Diyala Province, where Iraqi security forces need more time to be able to hold neighborhoods American troops have helped them clear."
It also underscores that the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement was never etched in stone, despite claims otherwise. Yesterday Baghdad saw a huge rally calling for the withdrawal of US forces. Toss that back to the Status Of Forces Agreement. al-Maliki had to promise Parliament that the thing could be put to a vote (al-Maliki and the US State Dept had to promise Iraq's Parliament that). That vote was supposed to take place in July.  Where are the preparations for that? The Kurdistan Regional Government will be holding provincial elections shortly (May 19th) and they are making their preparations. Where are the preparations for the Iraqi people to vote on the Status Of Forces Agreement?  For those who don't remember the January 31st provincial elections in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces required extensive work and planning. If you've forgotten the legislation finally passed Parliament September 24, 2008. They moved to hold elections as quickly as possible and all the work required meant as quickly as possible was January 31st.  And that work was after considerable work had already been done.   In July of 2007, the White House issued a press release declaring, "On January 23, 2007, the COR passed the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) Law, which the Presidency Council (the President and two Deputy Presidents) approved on February 27, 2007. On April 28, 2007, the COR [Council of Representatives] appointed the nine IHEC Commissioners in a process that the U.N. deemed fair and transparent. The Commissioners have completed appropriate training and are in the process of selecting representatives to oversee elections in the provinces. A Provincial Powers Law that defines the authorities and structures of local governments has been read twice in the COR, but changes are being considered, particularly related to the powers of the governor and the reach of the central government at the local level. At the highest levels, the Embassy is urging the Iraqi Government to take the legislative and administrative action necessary to ensure timely and fair elections. The Embassy is intensively engaged with the GOI and the COR at all levels to expedite legislation or amendments to existing legislation that will allow provincial elections to take place. New legislation or amendments to the existing law are required to set a date and secure funding for elections, as well as to establish the electoral system to be used for the vote, among other issues."  The link won't work anymore, take it up with Barack.   All of that work, all of those preparations.  And yet Iraq's supposed to hold a national referendum on the SOFA this July and there's no indication that any prepartion is being done on that.  They have not, for example, asked the United Nations for any help on the issue.  For those thinking, "Well the ballot will be simplified . . ." The ballot wasn't the issue. Who was on it and campaigning were issues for candidates. The govermnent and the election commission required all those months to set up for the elections.
Now let's turn to the pathetic websites.  Shirley says a record number of e-mails came in today on how useless the pathetic web sit and giving specific examples.  Let's start with the sewer of all sewers, Mark Karlin's ugly BuzzFlash.  I'm dictating this snapshot and I'm not going to ask my friend to count them all but he's counted the top 112 headlines on BuzzFlash -- all it is is headlines -- and not a damn one notes that 5 US soldiers died in Iraq today.  They have time to whine and beg for money (and to lie, people left them because of their sexist attacks on Hillary Clinton, not because they criticized her -- and Mark Karlin, the sexist pig, never felt the need to do an editorial telling men of color how to vote, but he felt he had the right to tell women of all races how to vote, he's a sexist pig and a great deal more). So that's Butt Ugly BuzzFlash and Butt Ugly Mark Karlin.   Let's see what those hard working Lambert groupies (and Lambert himself) are doing at Corrente? More bad health care blogging (probably should try understanding health care if you want to advocate on behalf of it), a video of Larry Summers, more bad health care blogging, Lambykins taxing himself with those brief blog entries.  Go on and on and you'll never find that 5 US soldiers died in Iraq today. Once upon a time, Corrente cared about the Iraq War and cared about ending it.  But those people bailed on Lambert and on the site and, judging by the brief 'page 6' like items they now pass off as 'writing,' those who left did so for good reasons.  No Quarters all over the banks and the pirates and for some reason 'Uppity Woman' feels the need to trash Ralph Nader for a vehicle GM's proposing.  That certainly helped . . . no one. Over at The Confluence, they're apparently tired of trying to prioritize their world -- they've confused themselves with a PAC -- and so you've got one post by Riverdaughter from this morning and, no, it has nothing in it about five US soldiers dying.  Riverdaughter, when she blogged at the other site, used to care about the Iraq War.  You'll search in vain for Iraq at The Confluence.  Over at Little Dicky's Daily Toilet Scrubber, they have time for Sex In The City videos, health care, gas bagging about tea bagging (they're obsessed with that and it has to do with their male-centric ways and their own latent desires) and on and on but, nope, not a word about Iraq. Once upon a time Arianna Huffington pretended she cared about ending the illegal war.  Maybe one of her spritual guides suddenly materialized to tell her to cover other things?  Today's big concern for Arianna at Aging Socialite's Cat Litter Box is, as always, Arianna.  You're cluded into that when she can't stop name dropping . . . herself: "The conversation continued last night when Charlie Rose invited me to discuss the issue with Tom Curley, AP's president and CEO.  For me, the key . . . reminds me . . ."  Poor Arianna.  No manners in the cat litter box.  What about the 'anti-war' Nation magazine (The Nation supported the slaughter of Aghanistan which is why it's so damn funny to read Katrina's efforts to back peddle today)?  Not a damn thing at The Nation -- not just "not a damn thing worth reading" as usual, but "not a damn thing on Iraq." Though visitors can laugh at Larua Flanders' latest make over.  Apparently, she asked to look like Patty and Cathy Lane's ugly awkward brother.  (The woman who played Patty and Cathy is interviewed by wowOwow here. And for what a piece of trash Laura Flanders is, be sure to read Kat's entry on Laura -- who attacked Hillary in the most sexist terms -- pretending she was offended by sexist attacks on Hillary.  She'll say anything in front of a crowd of women.  Oh well, maybe she was just trying to get laid that night.) 
And as bad as the 'brave' online world is, can anything top The Diane Rehm Show today where, second hour, a conversation about Iraq could have taken place but so damn desperate to forever sing and act out "The Boys in the Backroom" is Diane  that not only did we not get a conversation on Iraq, we got leering sexism which Diane refused to call out. Even when a caller phoned in to object, Diane couldn't call it out and in fact, excused it by lying.  She wasted our time with a made-up cat fight (proposed by a man) between Carla Bruni and Michelle Obama.  It was sexist and it was insulting (to both women as well as all women) and it didn't belong on NPR.  And when it was called out, the pig's response that he was being "cheeky" was as offensive as Diane's attempts to excuse it.  If that's all you've got left to offer, Diane, retire because the world doesn't need you.  
Why don't we get Iraq War coverage?  One reason is that when there is actual news from Iraq, it's not amplified.  The 'brave' online world would rather bore us all with 'tea bagging' because they are obsessed with their own and their friend's testicles. They don't give a damn about the Iraq War.  It's not just that they won't show up for a protest, it's that they don't give a damn about ending the Iraq War or about whether anyone lives or dies.  It's all so 'yesterday' for them. Alsumaria reports over 243 journalist have been killed so far in Iraq during the illegal war.  Reporters Without Borders goes with the more conservative estimate of 225.  And if any of them has an America's Funniest Home Video like clip, our 'brave' online world may find time to cover them.  Translation, they'll be ignored the same way they ignored Bilal Hussein's false imprisonment.  But don't worry, they're advancing the cause of making "tea bagging" a socially acceptable term. 
On Saddam Hussein, Alsumaria has a report (text and video) on Jawad Amer who lived underground for approximately 23 years (until the 2003 invasion) for joining the Dawa Party.  A large tile in his living room floor lifted up and led to his crawl space where he had keroscene, pots and pans, a toilet and more.  The fifty-something year-old man lived in that space below the home of his mother, Azeeza Masikh Dehash.  During his time underground, he lost all of his teeth (his teeth are the items in the matchbox he displays on camera).  Meanwhile at Fog el Nakhal, Touta shares a story of a family who were victimized under Saddam Hussein and were happy when the US invaded Iraq:  
They rejoiced. Freedom to go the the Kharij (outside Iraq), Freedom for the father finally to be able to get the job he deserved. Instead, the father got kicked out of his job. He was a 'saddamist'-living in Al Aathamiya and having a job-he had to be one of Saddam's favoured right? Wrong. His older brother had been killed by Saddam. That's how favoured he was. 
No job, and a family to feed, he resorted to selling everything. First the furniture went, the car, the extra fridge, but soon he ran out of stuff to sell. He sat on the kerbside and sold vegetables and herbs.           
During a particularly nasty time in 2006, he was shot by american soldiers. His wife complained, the soldier's reply-he was about to attack them.          
Yes, with that deadly broccoli and lethal courgettes.         
It was concluded he was shot accidently, as there were many militia men in the area. The wife had no qualifications and could not get a job. The recompensation was equivalent to $100.          
For a while, the family depended on their uncle. Who was then kidnapped by militia men, and beaten to the point that he couldn't walk, by his fellow country men. His ransom was so high, that it cost them everything.        
And yes, its a true story, and no they had no reason to lie, and yes i met the mother and her orphaned children. What made me smile, is I met the two girls. One is the age of my little sister, and the other is around 9.
The violence continues every day.  Even the myth of the 'peaceful' January 31st didn't actually mean no one died in Iraq that day (for example McClatchy's Sahar Issa reported two Kirkuk roadside bombings that resulted in one person being wounded. McClatchy's Laith Hammoudi noted a tribal fight in Baghdad that resulted in one death and one person injured.). 
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report Dhafir Hashim Al Jumayl was shot dead in Mosul today.  He had been the "cousin of the parliament member Usama Al-Nijaifi and his brother Atheel Al-Nijaifi who headed Al-Hadbaa list which won 48% votes of the last provincial elections".
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad missile attack which left two women wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left four people wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 woman and left her daughter injured and a Diyala Province roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives -- a woman and a man -- and left "their three children" wounded.  Aseel Kami, Tim Cocks, Abdul-Rahman Taher and Michael Christie (Reuters) report a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 9 lives and left twenty people injured: "Eyewitnesses told Reuters Television that the mother of a 7-month-old baby died in the blast and the father was critically wounded when the explosion struck the front of their car." The attack took place in the Kadhemiyah (also spelled Kadhimiya) neighborhood of Baghdad bombed.  Wednesday's bombing claimed 7 lives and left twenty-three wounded.  Tuesday's bombing claimed 9 lives and left eighteen wounded.  In that neighborhood of Baghdad, there have been three bombings this week, 25 deaths and sixty-one people wounded this week alone.
The Tuesday bombing resulted in one known orphan.  Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported that the Tuesday car bombing set another car on fire.  In the car were three people, a woman, a man and an infant.  Hammoudi said the man and the woman were the parents -- that may or may not be correct.  He also identifies someone who rescued the infant.  That may or may not be correct.  There is a dispute over who rescued the child (three names have been mentioned in press coverage).  But the child was rescued.  The infant, a baby boy, was taken in by Umm Assad al-Khafaji.  We know that for a fact because Sam Dagher (New York Times) reported on it and Chrisoph Bangert provided a photo of her feeding the child.  Dagher estimated the child to be around six-months-old.  He noted the man was driving the car and the woman was in the back with the baby and that it appeared the man was a driver the woman had hired. Someone rescued the child and Dagher observed, "In that sense, the baby was luckier than others who had been wounded in the bombing.  After Iraqi security forces arrived, they fired shots to disperse the crowd and scuffled withs ome of the rescuers, witnesses said, preventing many of the wounded from getting help."  Christoph Bangert offers another photo of the baby here.  A man claiming to be the baby's uncle later came forward to claim him.
March 27th we noted that New York Times Iraqi correspondent Sahar S. Gabriel had been granted refugee status in the United States.  April 4th Mudhafer al-Husaini, another Iraqi correspondent, wrote about his news: "Leaving Iraq is not something easy, and going to America is a good opportunity.  I know that many people around the world would wish to be in my place and travel to America.  But Iraq is not a poor, unkown country.  It has a great civilization and it's one of the oldest on the planet.  It's a very rich country with two great rivers.  The Iraqi people are kind and generous; we're really not bad people."  I'm using the term "correspondent."  I also use the term "reporter."  The Iraqis -- for all outlets -- have been the eyes and ears and they are as much responsible for the reports as anyone who gets mentioned in a byline.  And I find it strange that the Times credits Mudhafer (at the Baghdad Bureau blog post) as "an Iraqi tranlator with the NYT in Baghdad".   January 5th the paper ran  Sam Dagher and Mudhafer al-Husaini's "Bomber at Iraqi Shrine Kills 40, Including 16 Iranian Pilgrims."  June 25th it ran Alissa J. Rubin and Mudhafer al-Husaini's "Baghdad Blast Kills Four Americans."  January 8, 2008 it was Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Mudhafer al-Husaini's "Suicide Bomber Kills Key Sunni Leader."  We can go on and on.  Mudhafer was not just credited in the end notes to some articles, he regularly received a byline -- one he earned.  It's a bit insulting to refer to him solely as "an Iraqi translator with the NYT in Baghdad."  He reported and he got credit for it.  If we want to get really ugly, I can write about the Iraqis who made John F. Burns and Dexter Filkins' articles and got nothing -- not even end credit -- we can talk about where they ended up (refugees in Syria, for example) and how they feel they were used.  We can make a point to dig up all these stories (we don't have to dig too deep, they began contacting me in December of 2004) and talk about them here or the paper can start giving credit where it's due.  A start would be referring to Mudhafter as a "reporter."  That's what he is. 
Staying on the topic of the New York Times, Saul Landau (CounterPunch) examines the continued selling of the illegal war:
The New York Times Op-Ed page editors seemed undaunted about printing columns on the surge's success by the very pundits who had only recently assured the public of the biggest lies of the young 21st Century: Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda. Among the surge proselytizers, emerged Kenneth Pollack. In The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq (2002), he wrote: "The only prudent and realistic course of action left to the United States is to mount a full-scale invasion of Iraq to smash the Iraqi armed forces, depose Saddam's regime, and rid the country of weapons of mass destruction." He dismissed wusses who "exaggerated the danger of casualties among American troops."
Pollack even helped persuade Times columnist Bill Keller to support the Iraq war. "Kenneth Pollack, the Clinton National Security Council expert whose argument for invading Iraq is surely the most influential book of this season," wrote Keller (February 8, 2003), "has provided intellectual cover for every liberal who finds himself inclining toward war but uneasy about Mr. Bush."    
After expressing absolute certainty about Saddam's WMD, Pollack threw his enthusiasm behind the surge -- without apologizing for his role in helping to perpetuate destruction and death. Again using the Times as his propaganda organ, Pollack offered new dogma. The surge had provided "the potential to produce not necessarily 'victory' but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with." ("A War We Just Might Win" with Michael O'Hanlon, June 30, 2007)
Turning to the military and the economy, yesterday at the Washington Post online, Dana Priest did another of her Thursday webchats on national security and international issues.  Here's one section of the exchange:

Stafford, Va.: Dana, part of Gates' budget includes an increase in spending to support planned expansion of the Army and USMC. Do you know what the actual size of these forces would be once the plan is achieved and when that might be? Will the military have any difficulty in achieving this goal? Thanks.         

Dana Priest: Sorry, I don't know the numbers answer. I don't believe they will have problems with recruiting. The economic downturn is driving more people into the military. 
Today Edward Colimore (Philadelphia Inquirer) reports on the unemployment crisis and how it worries those in the service:
John Roscoe of Swedesboro trained hard over the last 70 days at Fort Sill, Okla., and isn't worried about heading to Iraq this month. The Army private is more concerned about finding employment when he returns in nine months.       
For now, deployment means employment.   
"I volunteered to go, and one of the biggest reasons is the economy," said the 26-year-old, who recently lost a private security job. "It's an entire year I'm getting paid and don't have to worry about looking for a job."         
One comrade, Sgt. Rockyfeller Mensah of Atco, is hoping to hold on to his civilian job. "I'm real, real concerned with everybody losing their jobs," said the 43-year-old sanitation truck driver. "I hope I can come back to work again."        
Mensah and Roscoe, a recent college student, yesterday were among more than 250 members of the New Jersey Army National Guard's 150th Assault Helicopter Battalion who took part in a farewell ceremony - attended by Gov. Corzine - at Fort Sill.

Public television notes. NOW on PBS offers a look at coal (no, I'm not optimistic either, NOW on PBS is highly 'business' friendly):

Can America's cheapest and most plentiful energy resource be produced without burning the environment?       
Americans are addicted to coal--it powers half of all our electricity, and is both plentiful and cheap. In fact, some call America the "Saudi Arabia of Coal." But are we paying too high an environmental price for all this cheap energy?        
With carbon emissions caps high on the Obama Administration's agenda, coal is in the crosshairs of the energy debate. This week, NOW Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa travels to Wyoming to take a hard look at the coal industry there and its case that it can produce "clean coal"--coal that can be burned without releasing carbon into the atmosphere. President Obama has been outspoken in his support for "clean coal" technology, but some say the whole concept is more of a public relations campaign than an energy solution.       
As part of the report, Hinojosa talks with Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal and Jeff Goodell, the author of "Big Coal," who says that carbon dioxide emissions generated from coal contribute to global warming.           
Our investigation is part of a PBS-wide series on the country's infrastructure called "Blueprint America."         
This week on Washington Week (begins airing tonight on most PBS stations, check local listings) Gwen sits down with NYT's David Sanger, Chicago Tribune's Christi Parson, LAT's Doyle McManus and US News & World Reports and CNN's Gloria Borger. Also, I was asked to note that Washington Week has given their site some "tweaks," so check that out. Bonnie Erbe sits down with Eleanor Holmes Norton, Ruth Conniff, Star Parker and Karen Czarnecki to discuss this week's news on To The Contrary. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The DEKA Arm
New technology is making it possible for amputees to pick up small, delicate objects they never thought they would master thanks to the biggest innovation in prosthetic arms since World War II. Scott Pelley reports. | Watch Video
Gun Rush
Americans are snapping up guns and ammunition at an increasingly higher rate despite the economic downturn. But as Lesley Stahl reports, the economic downturn, as well as the election of Barack Obama, may be the reason for the run on guns. | Watch Video
Steve Wynn
The casino mogul most responsible for taking Las Vegas to new heights of gaming and glitter talks to Charlie Rose about his spectacular success and the eye disease that's slowly robbing him of his ability to see the fruits of his labor. | Watch Video

Among those interviewed by Lesley Stahl for her report on guns is Senator Dianne Feinstein whose remarks will, no doubt, be news at home (the Bay Area) due to her days in municpal government when Harvey Milk was assassinated. At wowOwow, Lesley writes about the 60 Minutes segment and also offers a video preview. And as the wowOwow friend who requested that link notes, "You can join the conversation and leave your comments" at wowOwow.