Monday, December 21, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraqi oil contracts out of Baghdad are illegal, the US military declares pregnancy to be an 'offense' and one that can result in a court-martial, Tony Blair stares ever more into his looking glass, did Iran seize an oil field, March 20th is a national day of action, and more.
Starting in the US with the latest effort to spit on women. No, not the US Senate, the US military brass. Saturday, BBC World Service Radio offered a report from Iraq, where US General Anthony Cucolo yammered away about the new development for US service members: If you end up pregnant, you can be court-martialed. [Click here for BBC story online in text form.] Long gone are the days of "act of God." If you end up pregnant, married or not, and you're in Iraq, you can be court-martialed. For pregnancy. It's the US military's production of The Scarlet Letter. Cuculo and others claim the US military is in Iraq for 'freedom.' It's not the Iraqis freedom (they've been given nothing but chaos and violence) and it's certainly not America's freedom. Apparently it's Cuculo's freedom. His freedom to be an ASS in public.At some point, someone's going to grasp that women in the military are now sexless beings. They can't have sex with other women becuase of the military's ban on being openly gay. They can't have sex with men because they might end up pregnant. It's amazing that the same institution that does NOTHING to protect women in the ranks from rape, is more than happy to ensure that any consensual sex risks punishment. Paula Brooks (Lez Get Real) reports:
A well place Pentagon source told LGR yesterday, that for Cucolo it is a pretty "black and white" issue... but added the Pentagon is also "watching this one pretty carefully," since this prohibition is "mine field" of legal, ethical and policy issues....
"Personally... Even though the JAG people have said this is legal... I think this one is probably going to come back to bite us in the ass at some point, if not legally, then in the form of some really terrible PR," said our source.
"Here you really have issues that go to the core of personal integrity: reproductive rights," said Eugene Fidell, a professor of military law at Yale Law School in a Star and Stripes Article.
There are also issues of enforcement, Fidell said. The woman is immediately suspect once the pregnancy comes to light, but unless she identifies her partner, the male could go unpunished despite bearing the same culpability under the order.
On CNN today (link has text and video), Melissa Long spoke with Eugene Fidell who played 'seer' which isn't his role. Don't "assume," don't pretend you know why the order has been made if you don't. You're brought on as a legal expert and you're not a columnist. You're there for your legal expertise. Stick to that, Fidell. In the text, not the clip, Fidell is stating that during Vietnam, something similar happened in that a female service member could be dishcharged if she became pregnant. (A) Discharge is not court-martial. (B) There were a much more limited number of women then and it would be interesting to know how many of them were married or unmarried? Most likely, the order Fidell's referring to applied only to unmarried women. You'll note he also doesn't say anything about what would happen to a man involved with that woman? That's an interesting omission on his part -- and it's an interesting turnaround by him over the weekend on this order. Sarah Netter (ABC News) reports on the issue and John Hutson is sure, sure it's legal. Really? Why? Because the general needs everyone? Well okay, here's what let's do, let's put in a stipulation that a heart attack or a stroke or any health condition brought on -- in part or in full -- by poor nutrition results in a court-martial. We won't do that though,will we? It's only when the health issue is pregnancy that men suddenly want to propose punishments and start legislating. Hutson does worry about abortion access for those overseas. Of course he does. If you're pregnant, you're going to be thinking about an abortion and, let's be real, one's going to be 'suggested' to you by some 'helpful' higher ranking military official. [For drive bys, I'm pro-choice and pro-abortion. I believe it's the woman's choice. That means I do not believe she's forced into an abortion she doesn't want. Especially by some technocrat with a few bars on their uniform threatening her with court-martial and telling her how bad it will be on the man involved unless she has an abortion. "We can go through all the paperwork and the court-martial, or you can have an abortion," might be one way it's 'suggested' to her.] Free Speech Radio News covers the news in today's broadcast.
Andrew Stelzer: A US commander in northern Iraq is being criticized for a new policy that states soldiers who become pregnant or the men who impregnante them could be court-martialed. The policy went into effect on November 4th but was written about in the Stars and Stripes newspaper this weekend. Until now, soldiers could be sent home if they became pregnant but there was no disciplinary action but under the new rule, designed to keep forces at full strength, any military or military-related civilian personnel could be sentenced to jail for being pregnant even if they are married.
Turning to the theft of Iraqi oil, on the most recent Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera -- which began airing Friday), Jasim al-Azzawi discussed the issue of Iraqi oil with Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain Ibrahim Saleh al-Shahristani and the country's previous Oil Minister Issam al-Chalabi.
Jasim al-Azzawi: Dr. al-Shahristani, with no oil law in place -- Parliament has not enacted that law -- why not wait until that law is enacted so that everything will be under the supervision and according to the law?
Hussain al-Shahristani: Well the new oil and gas law has not been legislated. But this does not mean that there are no prevailing laws in the country that govern this important sector of the country of the economy of Iraq and the current laws that have been used in the previous regime are still valid and until they are replaced by new legislation, those laws are still governing the sector. And all our contracts are based on those laws which authorizes the Minister of Oil, alone, to sign any oil deal with field development or any other sector. However, the Minister of Oil has taken it on itself that any unforseen developments for the oil field will be presented to the cabinet and once it is approved by the cabinet, which is the highest executive authority --
Jasim al-Azzawi: Before it goes to the cabinet and before -- since you mentioned existing laws and rules, most probably, you are referring to Law Number 97, issued in 1967. That particular law, Dr. al-Shahristani, stipulates that each contract needs to have a special law, needs to have a special authorization from Parliament. And, according to what I know, you did not go through Parliament, you did not seek a special permission or special authorization for whether the Rumala contract or the Memorandum of Understanding.
Hussain al-Shahristani: Yeah laws always are superceded by the Constitution. The current Iraqi Constitution that was voted by 80% of the Iraqi population is the surpeme law of the country and it is very clear in the Constitution that international agreements between the government of Iraq and foreign governments or treaties between Iraq and other countries that require legislation in the Parliament. Any commercial contract between an Iraqi public company and a foreign company -- as is the case with the oil contracts -- these are within the competency of the government and they do not require any new legislation so --
Jasim al-Azzawi: That being the case, sir, Dr. al-Shahristani, I'm not sure under which legislation you are operating then. Are you saying -- you just said that you were working under existing rules and regulations and I assume it is Law 97. When I challenge that, you say it's according to the Constitution. So which way is it?
Hussain al-Shahristani: Well-well, first of all, there is a number of law, it's not only one law that you refer to and the Constitution, I explained, is the supreme law. If any of the laws contradicts the Constitution, then the Constitution prevails. In the -- under the Constitution, if there is a need for a new law, then that law should be legislated. And that's what we have done. We have drafted a new hydro-carbon law. By the way, even in the new hydro-carbon law, there is no need for presenting any oil deal or contract for legislation to the Parliament. On the contrary, the new draft authorizes what is called a Federal Council for Oil & Gas to approve any contract. What we are doing now, we are presenting it to the full cabinet for approval. Whenever --
Jasim al-Azzawi: That being the case, let me take a case in question. The Rumala contract, the Rumala deal, was negotiated by your ministry and was referred to the cabinet, per regulations, and the cabinet in turn sent it to the legal committee, and that legal committee had sixty-five stipulations and question marks about this oil deal. It was referred back to the cabinet. The cabinet met for one day. And, to my knowledge, those sixty-five questions were never answered fully and, in one day, the cabinet just approved the Rumala contract.
Hussain al-Shahristani: No. First of all, a number of the questions that were raised were simply questions and the questions were appropriately answered and the Minister of Oil has sent a detailed answer on every specific question to the legal advisor of the prime minister and a number of these uuuuuh questions have been considered by the ministry. And, uhm, the contracts, the flow of contracts have been amended if we are convinced that this will make the contract, uh, more clear. As a matter of fact, none of these points that were raised had any legal or economic impact on the contract at all. Or technical. They were purely matter of wordings. In some cases. And matter of specificity.
We'll jump ahead to the other half of the show, when Jasim al-Azzawi spoke with Issam al-Chalabi.
Jasim al-Azzawi: Issam, how dangerous is it for Iraq to sign these contracts and Memorandum of Understanding with no oil law in place.
Issam al-Chalabi: With all due respect, Dr. al-Shahristani seems to be moving on a shaky ground. I think he had fallen in his answers to your question, had fallen in the conflict between the Constitution and the existing laws. The Constitution says that, the two Articles about the oil and gas ought to be explained and there will be separate law to be issued. Until then, in a very clear, separate Article, it says that all existing oils will remain valid. Hence Law 97 of 1967 is valid as he mentioned and he ought to abide by it. That means, yes, the Minister of Oil is authorized provided they go and seek endorsement from the existing legislative body which is the Parliament for each case.
Jasim al-Azzawi: So far they haven't done that. Is that a reflection on the lack of oversight by Iraqi Parliament about this huge and overreaching contracts?
Issam al-Chalabi: No, the Oil & Gas Committee and many Parliamentarians have sought that and they have asked him, they have subpeoned him, that they should look into the matter. In fact, one particular member had gone to the federal court. And you asked about the dangers of these new contracts, I do say that it is very possible that in the future these contracts could very well be under questioning and somebody could question the legitimacy of these contracts and maybe they would be required to be amended or maybe anulled.
Jasim al-Azzawi: We are only three months away from very crucial elections in Iraq and it is quite likely tremendous changes is going to happen in Iraq and the ministries, especially in the Ministry of Oil. Even the Prime Minister might not be in the saddle. Once again, will we see rising chorus for changing these contracts or even cancelling them now that Iraqi nationalism is rising again?
Issam al-Chalabi: Well nobody knows what's going to happen from the elections and who will form the new government but definitely I would say that there are a lot of question marks. There many people are questioning the legitimacy of these contracts. And why did he rush into it? Why didn't he wait until after the elections and go to the Parliament? And also why signing so many contracts?
Here's reality on the law. If you don't have a new law, you follow the existing law. For a moment, al-Shahristani grasped that. Then, under questioning, he began stating well he's also using the Constitution. The Constitution did not resolve the oil issue, did not contain any laws on the oil. That means Law 97 is the governing law. al-Shahristani wants credit (or wants to hide behind) the fact that he's doing something in a draft law -- a proposed law. A proposed law is not a law. If the Parliament wanted it to be a law, it would have been one long, long ago. Law 97 is the law. That's it. When a new law is passed by Parliament (or if one is) that becomes the law. For now, Law 97 is the law. Law 97 is not being followed. The contracts are invalid. If a new government comes into being (meaning Nouri's kicked out as prime minister) and they want to nullify the contract, they can. The law was not followed. If that happens, the countries can sue anyone (you can sue anyone) but the only real case they have is with al-Shahristani who broke the law and Nouri who looked the other way. Even with a new government, they may not choose to invalidate the contracts. But for the life of those contracts, they will always remain iffy and the companies will have little 'muscle' in any conflict because Iraq can always say, "The contracts were illegal, we're cancelling them."
And in case it's not clear, one more time, al-Shahristani (or any Oil Minister) cannot cobble together bits of a law with bits of bill (an unpassed law) and say, "I'm following the law." No. The law is the law. In this case, Law 97 is the law. Unless and until Parliament passes a new oil law, Law 97 is the law.
Meanwhile, UPI reports, "Multinational forces were called on to ramp up their patrols in northern Iraq to protect vital oil export arteries, a spokesman for the Iraqi Oil Ministry said." "Multinational forces"? What MNF? It's the US. The UK's 200 is not in the north. There are no multinational forces anymore. Everyone else has gone home. It's the US military patroling the 'vital oil exports'. AFP reports "the pipleine to the Turkish port of Ceyhan" was attacked and that exports have not resumed as a result of the damage. RTT notes, "This is the second attack this month on oil pipelines in northern Iraq."
On the subject of oil, let's try to play catch up since Friday when Iran seized an Iraqi oil field . . . or maybe it did that two weeks ago . . . or maybe it never did that. As we go through the reports, a hint, if you can't follow or make sense of it, don't fret, no one knows any more than they did on Friday. Timothy Williams and Sa'ad al_izzi (New York Times) reported Saturday, "The Iranian government said Saturday that an oil field that its troops occupied a day earlier was on its side of the border with Iraq, despite Iraqi claims to the contrary." RTT News reported that Iran continued to deny they seized an Iraqi oil field. Iran's Press TV reported Iran's official line that the coverage is overblown and an attempt to drive a wedge between Iran and Iraq while also noting that, "Iran and Iraq have decided to establish an arbitration commission to clear up the misunderstanding between the two countries over an oil well in the border region." Muhanad Mohammed,Suadad al-Salhy, Mohammed Abbas, Parisa Hafezi, Missy Ryan and Andrew Dobbie (Reuters) added, "The Iranian flag was flying over the disputed oil well in a remote desert area southeast of Baghdad early on Saturday and an Iranian military tent was pitched nearby." The Telegraph of London observed the reported skirmish has resulted in a higher price for oil and they add, "An official in Maysan, who asked to go unnamed, said the Iranian troops were still present at Fakka on Saturday, and that the local government would send a delegation out to the remote desert area on Sunday." Sunday Kadhim Ajrash and Zahraa Alkhalisi (Bloomberg News) reported Iraq's Deputy Minister of Oil, Abdul Kareemal-Luaibi, has declared that, following "an armed confrontation," the Iranians who allegedly took over an Iraqi oil field have left. Just when you can almost make sense of the latest claims, along comes Timothy Williams and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) explained that Iraq's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs is stating the Iranian troops left the oil field but not Iraq while reports out of Iran claim "that the soldiers had never crossed into Iraq." And if you're confused, grasp that you're supposed to be. On such a serious issue, no government sends out "deputy ministers" to speak. You only send out someone that low level -- on an issue of territorial integrity -- if you want to be able to reserve the right to deny any statements made. What really happened? Who knows? About the only thing that is known is that all the rumors did wonders for the price of oil.
Fang Yang (Xinhua) reports a Falluja car bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer, a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded two police officers, a second Baghdad roadside bombing which injured two people, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured two people and "the Mayor of Tal Afar town in the northern province of Nineveh was killed toegher with his driver and his bodyguard when a suicide bomber struck their convoy in the town" also injuring seven other people. Sahra Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a third Baghdad roadside bombing which injured two people, two Baghdad sticky bombings (one was already reported on by Yang but 1 person has died from that one and 1 person died in the second one) and a Mosul explosion which injured two Iraqi soliders.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person shot dead in Mosul (assailants used silencers) and an attack on a Mosul police checkpoint in which 1 police officer was killed. Reuters adds 1 police officer was shot dead in Kirkuk and, dropping back to last night, 1 pesh merga was injured in a Kirkuk shooting.
The Iraq War continues. Ron Jacobs (at Dissident Voice) observes:
It's now December 2009. US forces forcibly occupy two nations -- Iraq and Afghanistan. While the US casualty figures in the former are relatively minimal nowadays, it was only a year or two ago that US military men and women were dying at the rate of one hundred a month. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the casualty figures are double what they were a year ago and tens of thousands more US soldiers and Marines are getting ready to deploy there (along with untold numbers of mercenaries). They have been told by their commander-in-chief that their cause is just. Once again, the protest is muted. The government in Afghanistan is a creation of Washington and would not exist without the foreign military presence there. It is also one of the most corrupt governments in the world. Women in Afghanistan suffer some of the worst human rights abuses in the world. Many of those abuses derive from the male supremacist interpretation of the Muslim religion by forces on all sides of the conflict. Many more of the abuses are the result of the ongoing conflict in that country. From displacement and hunger to death and maiming caused by US and resistance forces, the military conflict is probably the greatest violator of women's rights. Yet, the people of the United States have been told over and over again that one of the reasons for the US military presence in Afghanistan is to free the Afghan women.
So, why is there so little protest? Is it because many liberals and progressives who opposed the war in Iraq somehow see this misadventure in Afghanistan as righteous? Or do they believe that Barack Obama really does have a plan that will guarantee peace through the waging of war? If the latter is true, than these folks have truly succumbed to the wiles of imperial thought. There is no promise to end the war in any particular year, much less a specific date. If history tells us anything, the only way to stop a war is to make it difficult for the government waging it to continue to do so. This scenario will not occur within the walls of Congress. Nor will it take place inside the White House or the Pentagon. It can only occur in the streets of the United States. As long as the US government is convinced it has at least tacit support for its adventures overseas, it will continue them. As the recent escalation proves, it will not only continue them but will expand them.
Now, there are many folks who say they oppose the war but will argue that there is no point in mounting any protest against it. Their arguments will include the caveat that protests make no difference or that they will never reach the so-called regular people. I disagree. It seems to me that if the connection between the increasing failure of the government to fund essential services like schools, health care, infrastructure and even job creation can be connected to the ridiculously high cost of the wars and occupations, then the antiwar movement can reach the American people. Currently, it seems that there is a disconnect in most people's minds between the cutting of services and the ongoing wars and occupations. That disconnect must be terminated and the connections between the expanding price of imperial war and the decreasing quality of our services must be made. In addition, the profits of war must be exposed for what they are–theft of taxpayer's money by a small number of citizens. It is a theft on a scale so huge very few can even imagine it. It is also a theft that does not benefit the majority of the American people and certainly not most of the people of Iraq or Afghanistan in any meaningful way. Although they claim to be protecting us, the only thing these corporations and their uniformed cohorts are protecting is their bank accounts.
That does not have to continue. In fact, there is already an effort being organized by the National Assembly to End the Wars and Occupations to hold a massive antiwar protest on March 20, 2010 in Washington, DC and San Francisco.
The March 20th action is the one that A.N.S.W.E.R. and other groups are calling. Ava and I included the flier in our TV commentary this week and, as Jim noted, Ava and I intend to include it in our TV commentaries every Sunday until the march (March 20th). We're doing that to get the word out on it. Ron Jacobs and others are working to get the word out on it but it's really only if you get the word out on it that it matters. Talking about this one on one or in small groups matters much more than anything someone's going to read online. The action takes place March 20th. And if you don't get the word out on it, who will?
Wait, The Nation? The Progressive? Are you trying to make me laugh? Former British prime minister Tony Blair made shocking statements regarding the Iraq War this month and where's the coverage. Less than two weeks ago and where's the coverage. We've covered the remarks. The first time was December 12th, it was big in the Monday, December 14th Iraq snapshot and has been covered repeatedly since. Ivor Roberts (Independent of London) explains their importance:
IT is difficult to exaggerate the sense of shock but not awe some of us felt when hearing Tony Blair say last weekend that he would have gone ahead with the invasion of Iraq even if he'd known that the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) so trumpeted in the "dodgy dossier" didn't exist. He would, he said, simply have deployed different arguments to achieve the same result, the removal of Saddam Hussein. He deserved to go as he was a local menace and had gassed his own people. He was, moreover, uniquely evil.
There are quite a few things wrong with these arguments. Firstly, it flies in the face of the primacy of international law. Without it we simply return to the law of the jungle, the rule of the most powerful, the world of the Melian dialogue recorded in Thucydides' Peloponnesian War where "the strong do what they can, while the weak suffer what they must". This may have been the neo-cons' nostrum but it is not the basis on which the United Nations was constructed, and it is not the basis on which I served as a diplomat for nearly 40 years.
Tony Blair, Dominic Ponsford (Press Gazette) reports, is blaming the United Kingdom media. Citing Blair's interview in the Sunday Times of London, Ponsford quotes Blair insisting, "We've got a problem with the UK media. They don't approach me in an objective way. Their first question is how to belittle what I'm doing, knock it down, write something bad about it. It's not right. It's not journalism. They don't get me and they've got a score to settle with me. But they are not going to settle it." John Arlidge (Times of London) has the portrait of St. Tony of the Fan Rags, persecuted, misunderstood, victimized, in which Tony insists, ""It's not true that nobody likes me! Reading the papers in Britain, you'd end up thinking I'd lost three elections rather than won them. There is a completely different atmosphere around me outside the country. People accept the work that you are doing, as it is. They don't see anything wrong with being successful financially and also doing good work." When you're insisting to the press that it's not true that no one likes you, you've got a huge image problem. And in Tony's case, he brought it on himself. "I love my life as it is!" insisted Tony to John Arlidge. Then why the non-stop whining, Tony? Credit where it's due, what our alleged 'independent' media can't cover, The Huffington Post does. From Ben Cohen's piece there:
While Blair has certainly done some good after his tenure in office, his obsession with is own popularity shows why the British public grew to hate him in the first place. Blair's immense narcissism and unwavering belief that anything he did must be right led the country into a series of catastrophic choices with profound repercussions.
Blair led Britain to war under false pretense in both Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which were not only illegal but strategically disastrous. He also deregulated the city and allowed the banks to determine economic policy that ended up in one of the worst crisis in British history.
Lastly, in the US, yesterday was a national holiday. Madamab (The Widdershins) explains that it was "National 'We Told You So' Day!" so be sure you celebrated:
Wasn't this bill supposed to be the big, signature accomplishment of the Messiah of HopeyChangeness' first term? Clearly, it isn't going to be the economy. His solution to epic unemployment is to throw trillions in taxpayer money to the banking industry. Oh, whoops -- I forgot. Mea culpa. The "stimulus" package contained 40% tax cuts too. Yeah, cause tax cuts like totally create jobs, man. And they also cut through your tin cans and tomatos without rusting! Teh awesome!
Surely, peace and diplomacy won't be Obama's legacy, despite (hilariously) having ALREADY won the Nobel Peace Prize. Iraq is slowly, painfully, grinding to a partial close per Dubya's schedule (which Obama hasn't changed), while Afghanistan is being "surged," also per a Bush-Cheney timetable. Meanwhile, mini-Gitmo is set to open near Chicago (perhaps Reszko will build it!), kangaroo courts are being convened per Obama's order (unless you think the 9/11 "mastermind" is really going to get a "fair trial" in New York City after Obama has declared him guilty), and torture is still on the table.
And because I'm too angry to write about what Madamab is referencing, I'll just refer to the piece we did at Third on the Senate spitting on women. From "Editorial: Women's rights thrown under the bus:"
The new president of NOW, Terry O'Neill, issued a statement yesterday which included, "The National Organization for Women is outraged that Senate leadership would cave in to Sen. Ben Nelson, offering a compromise that amounts to a Stupak-like ban on insurance coverage for abortion care. Right-wing ideologues like Nelson and the Catholic Bishops may not understand this, but abortion is health care. And health care reform is not true reform if it denies women coverage for the full range of reproductive health services. We call on all senators who consider themselves friends of women's rights to reject the Manager's Amendment, and if it remains, to defeat this cruelly over-compromised legislation."
Good for Terry and good for NOW. Good for them for speaking out and good for them for drawing a line in the sand. They say if the amendment isn't pulled from the bill, senators should "defeat this cruelly over-compromised legislation." And they have urged you to, "Take Action NOW: Please call your senators immediately and urge them to oppose the Manager's Amendment in the Senate health care reform bill, which will effectively make abortion coverage unavailable in health insurance exchanges and, ultimately, in private insurance policies as well. If the Manager's Amendment passes, urge your senators to oppose the entire health reform bill."