Thursday, November 12, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, calls for investigations into Blackwater's reported efforts at bribery take place in Baghdad and DC, the PKK doesn't feel a new level of understanding has been reached, oil and money drive the news cycle, and more.
Each Sunday, Cindy Sheehan does her weekly radio show Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox. This week's guests were Debbie DeNello and Adam Kokesh. We'll note the following section of the broadcast.
Adam Kokesh: I think for the soldiers on the ground who see what Obama is doing, you know, they see troops are being taken out only to be replaced with a greater number of contractors and then for those troops to be put into a surge in Afghanistan and nothing to really change about the kind of abuse? You know, I think that's still a huge, major factor: lack of confidence in the mission. I mean, nobody really believes, no matter what Obama says, that these are wars of necessity --
Cindy Sheehan: Right.
Adam Kokesh: -- or that Afghanistan is the good war. In fact, Obama actually by coming out and saying that Afghanistan is not a war of choice, implying that Iraq is, you know what does that say to the over 100,000 troops that we had in Iraq at that time? 'Hey, you guys don't really have to be there but you're going to keep going out and being shot at and getting killed anyways'? And then to the contractors? I mean the same factor goes with them but at least they're doing it as private citizens with a little more free will -- the impact is not as much. For a soldier who's being told "You're going to go back to this war zone that doesn't have to exist." You can imagine the effect on that. Especially for the
fifth, sixth seventh deployment.
Cindy Sheehan: Well, Adam, you know that I have been, since my son [Casey Sheehan] was killed, actively just calling for troops out now. But when Obama, of course, says that Afghanistan is a war of necessity, he called Iraq "a dumb war" and, like you said, people are still dying in this "dumb war" --
Adam Kokesh: Yeah.
Cindy Sheehan: -- that he has proclaimed "dumb." Well you know, all wars are dumb. Let's tie this, what happened to you in Iraq, what you know, you have the exper -- experiential opinions on this. But tie it in with your Congressional campaign. What is your platform? What will you do in Congress?
Adam Kokesh: Well I'm a Constitutionalist. I'm a non-interventionalist. I'm still a proud member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and I support the mission of Iraq Veterans Against the War. I'm also a proud member of Veterans for Peace and I think that the mission of the organization Veterans for Peace is even more applicable now when we see the kind of hypocrisy of the Democrats. It's almost worse than what we had when the neocons were in charge. The neocons were easy to hate, they were brazen and upfront about it and had this swaggering machismo whereas what we see under Obama now is this really disgusting deceitfulness that has some people with really intense mixed feelings. But one of the things that we're counting on here is that by November 2010 when my election is held and I'm going to be running against -- well I am running against an incumbent Democrat who has said that he is calling for an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan, an immediate request for an exit strategy and yet votes to -- votes for all the funding for Iraq and Afghanistan and all of that and has toed the Democratic Party line and I think people are really going to be fed up with that. And, you know, it's definitely not the Republican Party that has all the answers but there are people within the Republican Party like myself that are trying to make it the party of Big Tent smaller government again and ensure that that includes a very strong committment to this policy of non-interventionism. Not isolationism, but non-interventionism which means free trade and commerce and friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none. And unfortunately in the world we live in, having a strong national defense is appropriate at this time. But there's a reason it's in the Constitution that Congress has the power to declare war and when they declare war they're supposed to do it with a specific enemy and a declaration and there's an objective. And then they give the military the mission and then they get out of the way. And this is the way it's supposed to be when it's legitimate self-defense. You go to war, you win, you come home. And when we have these open-ended committments, when we have these world policing opportunities where they are run by Congress, they are run by a political machine, and not by a military with a specific objective, you get this kind of open-ended nation building process that puts so much money into the military industrical complex, concentrates so much more power in the hands of the federal government -- into the executive especially. And that hasn't changed under Obama. You know, we want to see a return to the Constitution because of those principles behind it and make sure we don't engage in these wars because when you engage in war when there's not a declaration you know that the premise is faulty, you know that it is not honorable, you know that it is not righteous in the case of self-defense. And we know that neither Iraq or Afghanistan, in terms of what we're doing there today, qualify for any sort of just war theory. And getting back to that and making sure that that message has -- has an oppotunity to be heard in the 2010 elections is a really important part of this campaign for me. It's not easy, you know? It's really not easy. Talking to the progressive base is a lot easier than talking to the conservative base but it's a really important challenge to make sure that they live up to those values and understand why the Constitution was written the way it was.
Cindy Sheehan: Well, Adam, sometimes I think talking to progressives is harder because of what you said. They want to put all their hope eggs into the basket of Obama and the Democrats and clearly, clearly, they're not the peace party. The Democrats and Republicans, institutional parties, are all the same. They're the War Party and we have to put a big chunk of what's happening now on the shoulders of a Congress in 2001 that gave George -- that abrogated their Constitutional duty and gave George Bush the authority to do what is happening right now.
Adam Kokesh: Well the grass -- well the thing that I've learned is the grassroots of both the Republican and the Democratic parties are totally different from the national leadership --
Cindy Sheehan: Absolutely.
Adam Kokesh: -- and it just so happens that when the Democratic Party's in charge, they're better able to sway their base into being pro-war and supporting big government and supporting interventionism, supporting theft and violence as we see our-our, you know, just so essential to what our federal government is doing these days. But really the base of the Republican Party -- and even here in New Mexico there's a distinct difference between the leadership of the Republican Party and the base -- the grassroots activists and the rank and file members. They're totally receptive to this message. They understand that it's not economically feasible to send so much manpower and material into this nation-building -- these nation-building exercises and not have it hurt people here at home. And when they're forced to consider it like that, you know they realize that what we're doing there isn't worth it. And being able to get them to take that step at this point, it's really satisfying to bring this message to people who haven't heard it because when the Republican Party was in charge for the last eight years, they were getting that propaganda. Now that the War Propaganda is coming from the Democratic machine, they're much more ready to question it --
Cindy Sheehan: Yep.
Adam Kokesh: -- and start speaking out against it.
Cindy Sheehan: Well, Adam, unfortunately we're running out of time. Tell my listeners how they can get ahold of you.
Adam Kokesh: Oh great! This is my opportunity for the shameless plug! Thank you so much.
Cindy Sheehan: Yep, yep.
Adam Kokesh: Kokesh for Congress is the website, K-O-K-E-S-H F-O-R Congress.com, check us out there. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow me on Twitter at Adam Kokesh. And our phone number here at campaign headquarters is (505) 470-1917.
Cindy Sheehan: And I encourage my listeners to -- I know they all know about your anti-war work but I encourage them to go to your website and don't have a knee-jerk reaction just because you have a "R" after your name, right?
Adam Kokesh: Exactly. Well you know there's a lot of issues that cross party lines and it's been great to know that there are people like you who are also seeing that the Federal Reserve is such an integral issue economically which makes all these wars possible and all the other crimes of our government --
Cindy Sheehan: Yep
Adam Kokesh: -- and our corporations happen because of the Federal Reserve.
Staying with those who make war Big Business, yesterday's snapshot, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen (New York Times) interviewed four former Blackwater execs who stated that, in December 2007, approximately one-million dollars was used to bribe officials in Iraq in order to get them to look the other way in the face of Blackwater's continued assaults. Iraq's Minister of the Interior Jawad al-Bolani spoke to CNN (link has video as well as text) and stated that his ministry had launched an investigation into the assertion that Iraqi officials took bribes.
Jawad al-Bolani (via translator): Blackwater has no new positions to operate in Iraq. Blackwater has a problem and a lawsuit. Some of its employees committed a crime against innocent Iraqi civilians in Nussor Square and this case is an ongoing trial in American courts. Blackwater is a company that caused a major national tragedy. The Nussor incidient was a very difficult one and no Iraqi can ever forget it. But the Iraqi government was committed and acted responsibly for the sake of the Iraqi people and the reputation of Iraq.
James Risen (apparently due to the Times' fear of a Nouri-related lawsuit) rushes to print this morning to proclaim, "The Times article reported that former Blackwater executives who learned of the plans said they did not know whether the money was, in fact, delivered to Iraqi officials." Daniel Barlow (Times Argus) reports US House Rep Peter Welch formally called yesterday for an investigation into the allegations of bribery on Blackwater's part writing the Chair of the House Oversight Committee, "Early reports indicate that Blackwater may have violated the Foreign Corrupts Practices Act and potentially interfered with a grand jury inquiry by issuing these bribes. The United States government simply cannot turn a blind eye to such actions." Oliver August (Times of London) quotes a "relative of a Blackwater shooting victim," Aquil Akram stating, "Everything about them is bad. The victims's families were paid at most a few thousand dollars in compensation but the company is giving a million dollars to some government officials."
Meanwhile Iran's Press TV reports that Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has passed on 'details' to the UN Secretary-General's assistant Oscar Fernandez-Taranco on the August 19th and October 25th bombings: "We provided him with all the information which was not published in the media. We have not accused any country, but evidence asserts that former Baathists and al-Qaeda were involved in the attacks." Which would mean that they infilatrated the Iraqi police and the Iraqi military and, to steal from Annie Hall, "the FBI, and the CIA, and J. Edgar Hoover and oil companies and the Pentagon and the men's room attendant at the White House." The trucks loaded with bombs went through multiple checkpoints.
In other news, Reuters reports a prison break in Basra with three escaping last night. The violence continues in Iraq with Marwan Ibrahim (Telegraph of London) reporting kidnapping of children is increasing in Kirkuk and goes over some of the known kidnappings including that of Sheikh Othman Abdel Karim Agha's son Moahmmed who says, "They chained me and beat me, and I was in the dark because they blindfoled me. I am still in shock from the constant fear of death."
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded three people and a Mosul grenade attack which left two police officers injured. Reuters reports a Baghdad car bombing injuring four people.
Zhang Xiang (Xinhua) reports 2 Sahwa members were shot dead today in Jurf al-Sakhr. Sahwa are also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" (there is also a "Daughters Of Iraq"). Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) explains it was Sahwa commander Othman Mohammed was shot dead in Diyala Province as was an aid accompanying him and reports 1 "headmistress of al Ma'ali School for girls" was shot dead in Baghdad and 2 people shot dead in two different osul shootings. Reuters reports a Balad shooting yesterday which claimed the life of 1 police officer (three more injured) and a Kirkuk shooting yesterday which injured a police officer.
Sahwa are also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" (there is also a "Daughters Of Iraq"). The US government paid them to stop attacking the US military and its equipment. Richard Sale (Washington Times) reports today:
A congressional staffer who spoke on condition that he not be named because he was discussing sensitive intelligence said that after the U.S. stopped paying Sunni forces directly in June, it wasn't long before payments to the tribes "simply stopped. You got paid if you were a power in the government, and the tribal leaders were last on [Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki's list," the staffer said.
The Iraqi Embassy in Washington declined to comment.
The PKK is a group of Kurds who fight for a Kurdish homeland. Labeled terrorists by many countries, including Turkey, they long ago set up a camp in the northern mountains of Iraq (which borders Turkey). Reporters have visited the camp -- Deborah Haynes of the Times of London, for example. Recent developments have included some PKK turning themselves over to the Turkish government which has then released them. Reuters reports a second wave of PKK has turned themselves into the Turkish government today (eight members). The PKK issue is not seen as a 'big' one in Iraq currently. For example, the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, sees the tensions between the KRG and Baghdad as the greatest source of conflict. But the PKK issue has never gone away no matter how many times the current or the previous administration might want it to. The government of Turkey has received repeated promises from the US government (current and previous administrations) that the PKK issue would be 'dealt with' and 'handled' and all that has ever happened has been postponing it until it flares again, at which point the US government is suddenly concerned all over again. For over two years now, Turkey has been conducting air raid bombings over northern Iraq. Asso Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) visits the main camp of the PKK to speak with the leader Murat Karayilan about where things stand currently:
Q: How do you view the policy of the United States on the Kurdish issue? The U.S. has asked Turkey to resolve the issue peacefully.
A: I am doubtful of this policy by America. When [President] Obama visited Turkey he met with Ahmet Turk, the Kurdish parliamentary bloc representative in the Turkish parliament. The meeting had implications, but America does not want to resolve our cause for their own interests in the region. They want to put pressure on us to make more compromises.
Q: How do you manage to stay in Iraq? Do you get any assistance from the Kurdish Regional Government?
A: We have no relations with the KRG, we are not in need of their assistance, we rely on our own finances from our people in Turkey and our supporters abroad. The Kurdish people in Kurdistan sympathize with us and support us morally, but not materially. At the same time, we believe the current situation of the Kurds and their role in the political equation in the region is becoming weaker day after day.
James Glanz and Walter Gibbs (New York Times) contributed a bad article this morning. Peter Galbraith (long called out at this website -- search the archives) finally gets the write up for his help or 'help' which was accompanied by efforts to enrich himself. As October wound down, Al Jazeera's Inside Iraq addressed this issue.
Jasim al-Azzawi: When Norway's most respected financial newspaper, Dagens Noeringsliv, covered the activities of a small, Norwegian oil company called DNO operating in northern Iraq, no one expected subsequent investigations to implicate the former US politician Peter Galbraith. Ambassador Galbraith is now suing DNO for a quarter of a billion dollars because the Kurdistan Regional Government has squeezed him out of his 5% stake in the company. What is more devastating for Iraq is the role Mr. Galbraith played as a political consultant to the KRG writing Iraq's Constitution in a way that can only be described as a potential ticking time bomb. This story has all the marks of dual loyalty, betrayal and international intrigue. [. . .] I am now joined from Oslo by Terje Erikstad, a financial news editor at Dagens Naeringsliv and from London by Sabah al-Mukhtar, president of Arab Layers Association in London. And we were also supposed to be joined by Mohammad Ihsan, Minister for Extra-Regional Affairs of the KRG but unfortunately we were informed at the last minute that he fell sick and cannot join the program.
Transcript of a partial excerpt of the broadcast can be found in the October 26th snapshot. Today NPR's Melissa Block (All Things Considered) interviewed Peter Galbraith about his oil dealings.
Oil is the issue Ameen Izzadeen raises in his latest column for Sri Lanka's Daily Mirror:
Notwithstanding questions over the credibility of US President Barack Obama's anti-Iraq war rhetoric, he has artfully taken the world attention away from Iraq, which his predecessor George W. Bush invaded.
Obama is seen to be fighting his war in the Af-Pak region against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants. Obviously, it is the daily terror incidents and military operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan that fill the front pages of US newspapers. Incidents in Iraq either make no news these days or are relegated to inside pages.
This does not mean that the United States has shelved Iraq. Far from it, Iraq is very much on its agenda. The shifting of the focus from Iraq to Afghanistan is seen by many observers as deliberate and sneaky. The US apparently does not want much media attention when it is reaping the fruit of the invasion. Like a couple who want to be intimate send their children to play, the US has sent the media to Afghanistan while it digs deeper into Iraq's national wealth. Can we call this Obama's weapon of mass deception?
Last Thursday, Exxon-Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell won the development rights of a massive oil field -- West Qurna near Basra in Iraq's south. The two oil giants hope to boost daily production from the current 300,000 barrels to 2.3 million barrels a day at West Qurna, which the ousted and hanged Iraqi President Saddam Hussein wanted to give to a Russian oil company.
Last month, British Petroleum (BP) and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) won a contract to develop another oil field. The invitation to China to join the plunder of Iraq is probably a payoff by the US so that this Asian economic powerhouse and rising military power would not rock the pirates' boat.
James Cogan (WSWS) offers, "Having drowned the Iraqi people in blood, the American financial and corporate oligarchy now believes that day has finally arrived. While US corporations are not the sole beneficiaries of the contracts, there is no question who has the final say over Iraq's oil. With huge military bases in the country and a Baghdad regime tied to Washington, the US is positioned to dictate terms to its European and Asian rivals and, amid rising great powers tensions, to wield the threat of cutting off oil suppliers -- a longstanding tenent of American strategic policy." Meanwhile Rod Nordland (New York Times) reports, "Iraq's Baghdad Trade Fair ended Tuesday, six years and a trillion dollars after the American invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and one country was conspicuously absent" -- the United States. US House Rep John Murtha spoke with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (link has text and video) over the weekend and predicted that the costs of the wars in Iraq and Aghanistan will lead to inflation in "seven or eight years". Last Friday, US House Rep Dennis Kucinich issued the following statement:
Why is it we have finite resources for health care but unlimited money for war? The inequities in our economy are piling up: trillions for war, trillions for Wall Street and tens of billions for the insurance companies. Banks and other corporations are sitting on piles of cash of taxpayer's money while firing workers, cutting pay and denying small businsses money to survive. People are losing their homes, their jobs, their health, their investments, their retirement security; yet there is unlimited money for war, Wall Street and insurance companies, but very little money for jobs on Main Street. Unlimited money to blow up things in Iraq and Afghanistan, and relatively little money to build things in the US. The Administration may soon bring to Congress a request for an additional $50 billion for war. I can tell you that a Democratic version of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is no more acceptable than a Republican version of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Trillions for war and Wall Street, billions for insurance companies . . . When we were promised change, we weren't thinking that we give a dollar and get back two cents.
Tuesday's snapshot noted Human Rights Watch's new report entitled [PDF format warning] "On Vulnerable Ground: Violence against Minority Communities in Nineveh Province's Disputed Territories." The Kurdistan Regional Government has issued a response to the report and we'll note this section of the response:
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has a long standing and productive relationship with Human Rights Watch (HRW). We appreciate what HRW has done in the past. As an oppressed community ourselves, we fully understand the value of ensuring justice for all members and factions of society. In addition, the KRG appreciates the interest in the condition of the minority communities in Ninevah Province's disputed territories. We regard the well-being of all communities in these areas to be of paramount concern.
The KRG is ready and willing to look into each and every allegation, and we are ready to work on these issues under the legal framework of both the Kurdistan Region and the Republic of Iraq, with the help of HRW and other reputable human rights organisations. The KRG will investigate each specific claim outlined in the report carefully and thoroughly. There may be instances of maltreatment and neglect; the KRG does not claim to be flawless.
But the report reveals a systematic misperception of the circumstances in Ninevah and a worrying ignorance of Iraqi history. HRW therefore produces an inaccurate portrayal of the situation. Furthermore, due to the methodology employed to produce this report, it cannot be the basis for legitimate judgements or assertions.
The main thrust of this report could be grossly misleading and the KRG affirms its strong disagreement in this regard. The KRG has done more for the protection of minorities than any other entity in Iraq, and continues to insist on tolerance and peaceful coexistence in the Region and throughout Iraq.
We don't have time for the KRG's full statement in this and, equally true, the HRW report was not given a ringing endorsement here on Tuesday. (Repeating, I believe the two activists who detailed their abuse while in Kurdish custody.) We opened with IVAW and we'll close with it. Yesterday was Veterans Day in the US and, at Fort Hood, there was a candle light vigil. Shelton Green (KVUE -- link has text and video) reported on it.
Shelton Green: Well Tyler, they call themselves, Iraq Veterans Against the War. Tonight, they not only honored their fallen comrades, they also brought attention to the growing mental health needs of returning soldiers. There's another vigil Wednesday night to honor the slain and injured and last Thursday's shooting at Fort Hood. But the fire burning within these soldiers and their supporters has a less popular fuel source.
Michael Kern: I approached the army when I got back from Iraq and I was like hey I need to talk to someone, I need some help. And they said come back in two months.
Shelton Green: Michael Kern who is presently in the army met President Barack Obama Tuesday when he was at Fort Hood for a memorial service for the thirteen killed in Iraq last week. Kern slipped the president a list of changes he'd like to see made for troops returning home from battle.
Michael Kerns: He came over to me to shake my hand, put out his hand to shake my hand and very respectfully I pulled out the letter in my pocket, tried handing it to him and I was like, "Sir, IVAW has some issues they would like you to address." And at that point, he put his hand down and moved to the next soldier. Secret Service then took the letter from me and that was the last of it.
Shelton Green: Iraq Veterans Against the War want to see a withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. They also believe both countries should get reperations from the US. And they want to see better mental health care for returning soldiers.
Chance Mills: There should be a more compassionate attitude towards soldiers who are dealing with a lot of stress. And that's where it has to start. No program, no poster on the wall is going to fix that.
Shelton Green: Now Iraq Veterans Against the War claims its membership of 2,000 is growing. The group is also organizing a petition for better mental health services for returning troops. We're live at Fort Hood, Shelton Green, KVUE News.