Saturday, March 07, 2009

Pigs may not fly but they sure float in Iraq

"We are the sons of the province, and we are ready to run the province," said Ahmad Abu Risha, who inherited the leadership of the Awakening movement after his brother, Abdul Sattar, was killed in a suicide bombing in 2007.

That's from Liz Sly's "Iraq's Sunni Awakening movement takes first place in Anbar province elections" (Chicago Tribune) and Mafia Don Ahmad Abu Risha bragging about coercing the electoral 'commission' into swinging the vote his way. Shakey Risha is a thug. He was born a thug and, hopefully some day very soon, he will die a long, slow, painful thug death. Maybe when the US military pulls out? Maybe he can cry in vain in his dying gasps for the US military to save him?

That would be poetic. The thug runs his own little syndicate in Al Anbar Province and he stomped his feet and threatened massive violence if he didn't get his way in the (rigged) election results. Now we're seeing him revealing even more of his tiny being: "We are the sons of the province." Pig. Dumb ass, uneducated pig.

And don't you dare say, "That's the culture." No, that was not the dominant culture in Iraq. The dominant culture did not, for example, feel the need to do an animal sacrfice at every government ceremony. (And we do grasp that when US 'sensititivies' or 'fears' are too great, the sacrifice is done prior to the ceremony, right? ) These are the uneducated thugs the US elected to work with, the backward, backwater hicks of Iraq.

The braindrain was of no concern to the US government because they'd already installed thugs (and would continue doing so). There was no concern over Iraq becoming a 'democracy' -- ignore the lip service. The plan was for Iraq to be controllable and stable enough for money to be made. The first part meant puppets would be installed and the second part meant they would pick wack jobs for the puppets. Not educated people who might honestly embrace democracy, of course not. The international history of the US is one of extreme violence when democracy actually starts to take hold or awaken in a people. When Chile 'foolishly' thought they could have a democracy and that the Western world would embrace them for it, you get slaughter and the installation of Pinochet. It's the same in country after country.

'Democracy' espoused by the US overseas is just a band-aid to plaster over the bleeding. "Yes, there has been a lot of killing, but democracy is coming! It's coming!" If it ever shows, it'll have to stagger across a globe bloodied and bullied., stepping over so many corpses that "killing field" is an insufficient phrase.

And it happens over and over again, the US installs these thugs to intimidate the local people. Shakey Risha is a pig and a crook. When he began threatening mass violence because he didn't like the results of the election, the correct response would have been to have let the results stand and carted his ass off to prison. (Don't worry, the Godfather's cement 'business' would have stayed in the Family.) Instead, everyone catered to him. Nouri sent in representatives, the US military sent in representatives (and sent the military back in to the province in large numbers in case the violence Shakey was threatening broke out). The results should have stood. Instead, a thug was catered too.

Ten, twenty years from now, when young adults come to the US to speak of what happened to their families in Al Anbar Province, remember there was a moment when the thug could have been put in his place; however, the US that elevated him (and put him on the payroll) continued Shakey's elevation.

Sly notes:

The final result helped soothe Awakening tempers but stirred the ire of the Islamic Party, which has governed Anbar since 2003. It alleges the result was fixed to mollify the Awakening and head off the threat of violence.
"People think the results were made up--a deal with the government in Baghdad and also the Americans to satisfy Abu Risha," said Khamis Ahmed Abtan, the outgoing deputy head of the provincial council, who is affiliated with the Islamic Party and who worries that an Awakening-led administration will introduce tribalism to local government.
"Anbar is going to be ruled according to emotions and according to affiliations of tribes," he said. "We're already seeing it. People are saying, 'We're of X tribe, so we've got to have X job.' I don't think this is good for the security of the province."

That's the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), an Arab party and the party of Iraq's Sunni vice president Tariq al-Hashimi. Feb. 18th, IIP's Sami Safwat was shot dead in Baghdad.

Dahr Jamail is back in Iraq. In his latest report, he explores the destroyed medical services in Iraq. From his "Medical Care At Last, At a Price" (Dissident Voice):

Prompt medical care is at last on offer in Iraq, for those who can find the dollars for it.
"Why would I want to go to government-run hospitals where there is no care, no functioning instruments, long lines, and in the end the same doctor who treats you there can treat you at a private hospital," says Mohammed Abbas, 35, an employee at Iraq’s Ministry of Oil.
Abbas, speaking at the private Saint Raphael Hospital in the Karrada area of Baghdad, wanted treatment on time, and was prepared to pay for it. Like him, many are coughing up money for private treatment. When they have money, that is, in an economy with more than 50 percent unemployment.
For medical care, many scramble to find money somehow. "It is a catastrophe at the government-run hospitals," says Hayder Abud, 30, at the private hospital for a check-up. "When you finally get a doctor to see you there, they are so rushed and sleep deprived, you can’t be sure you are getting proper treatment."
Most treatment at government hospitals is free. Getting an x-ray at a private hospital may cost 40 dollars. But at a private hospital the job can get done on time.
"Iraq's Ministry of Health is struggling," said Khaled, administrative manager at the Saint Raphael Hospital, requesting that his last name not be used. "We have had problems with the Ministry of Health because they are angry at us for treating so many more people nowadays."

Meanwhile AP's Kim Gamel reports on a study sponsored by al-Maliki's government and the World Health Organization that attempts to examine mental health in Iraq and finds that, of those who self-identify as having mental disorders -- 16.5% of the total number surveyed, almost 70% have thought of suicide. (No, thinking of suicide is not the same as doing it and thinking of suicide is not uncommon in a non-war zone.) Gamel notes that a random sample (just like the 2006 Lancet study) was done involving 4,332 Iraqis (less than the number surveyed for the Lancet study). Harvard Medical School's Ronald Kessler states that Iraqis seem to have adapted and that's probably true but equally true is that the numbers are lower than one might expect (as Kessler admits) for another reason: the stigma of mental illness and disorders in Iraq.

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Iraq and Turkey

From a snapshot last month:

[. . .] the State Dept denies speaking with Jordan or Turkey about air space or land in the case of a draw down in the near future, and more.
[. . .]
At the US State Dept today, spokesperson Gordon Duguid was asked if the airspace or land of Turkey and Jordan could be used for US equipment "when the time comes" and Duguid responded, "I am not aware of any discussions on that. I know that the President has asked for a review from the Pentagon on just how you could draw down U.S. forces in Iraq. I am not aware that the review has been finalized, so I would have to refer you to the Pentagon for where that stands at the moment."

Where it stands now? Today US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Turkey and Viola Gienger (Bloomberg News) reports that she visited various government officials (Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan among them) in Ankara and discussed "Iraq, Iran, peace in the Middle East and the security of energy supplies." Geinger observes:

The Obama administration needs Turkey to help stabilize Iraq and to mediate in Middle East conflicts involving countries and groups with limited or broken diplomatic ties with the U.S., such as Syria and Iran. Turkey, which aspires to European Union membership, also forms a vital oil and gas corridor.

China's Xinhau reports:

Clinton met with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan early Saturday morning and bilateral relations between the two NATO allies, Middle East peacekeeping as well as the fight against terrorism were high on agenda of the meetings, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.
According to the report, Clinton's visit was aiming to try to build a better image for the Obama administration in order to remove a wave of anti-Americanism that rose after the U.S.-led invasion in Iraq in 2003.

And Barack will reportedly visit Turkey in the next few weeks. Reuters noted this week:

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan signalled on Wednesday Turkey would allow the US military to use its bases and ports to withdraw troops from Iraq after US President Barack Obama pledged a 2010 drawdown.
The United States has not formally asked to use Turkish airbases and ports and Turkey would have to consider what kind of equipment was being transported, the routes to be used and other issues before approving any such request, Babacan told reporters before departing for a NATO meeting in Brussels.

A friend at the State Dept asks that I please include a link to their student website. We will most likely include that on the permalinks to the left at some point -- whenever I can cast a spell and increase the number of hours in a day -- and I believe we fall back one hour this weekend.


These are the Secretary of State's 2009 International Women of Courage Awards:

In celebration of International Women's Day, the Department of State announces the recipients of the third annual Secretary of State’s Award for International Women of Courage. This is the only award within the Department of State that pays tribute to outstanding women leaders worldwide. It recognizes the courage and leadership shown as they struggle for social justice and human rights.
This year, the Secretary of State will pay tribute to honorees representing Afghanistan, Guatemala, Iraq, Malaysia, Niger, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. They are among over 80 exceptional women nominated by U.S. Embassies worldwide for their extraordinary work in advancing human rights. The women will be in Washington from March 8 - 12 for a program of meetings with government officials, NGOs and the media. The Office of International Visitors is partnering with the Office of International Women’s Issues on this project.

The 2009 recipients of the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Awards are:

Ms. Wazhma Frogh (Afghanistan)
Wazhma Frogh is the Afghanistan Country Director for the NGO Global Rights and a dynamic leader in the fight against domestic violence, marital and child rape, and sexual abuse in Afghanistan.

Ms. Norma Cruz (Guatemala)
Norma Cruz is on the forefront of women who are fighting on behalf of victims of violence and sexual abuse. As director of the NGO Survivors Foundation, Ms. Cruz combats the widespread impunity that too often accompanies the endemic violence against women in Guatemala.

Ms. Suaad Allami (Iraq)
A prominent lawyer, Suaad Allami fights against the erosion of women's rights and defends the most disadvantaged. She founded the NGO Women for Progress and the Sadr City Women's Center, which offers free medical care, literacy education, vocational training, and legislative advocacy. She has accepted a Humphrey Fellowship from the State Department for academic year 2009-2010.

Ms. Ambiga Sreenevasan (Malaysia)
An accomplished lawyer who became President of the Malaysian Bar Council, Ambiga Sreenevasan masterfully uses the rule of law to advance human rights, the status of women, and religious tolerance. In the face of death threats and intimidation, Ms. Ambiga has emerged as a strong voice of tolerance and justice.

Ms. Hadizatou Mani (Niger)
Sold to a "master" at the age of 12 for the equivalent of $500, Hadizatou Mani persevered in gaining her freedom and helped pave the way for others trapped in similar circumstances to seek justice. Through her valiant efforts, persistence, and refusal to succumb to social pressure to abandon her case, she won a historic, precedent-setting decision in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice that condemned her enslavement.

Ms. Veronika Marchenko (Russia)
Veronika Marchenko is the head of the NGO Mother’s Right, and has demonstrated exceptional bravery and leadership in exposing the truth surrounding the disturbing peacetime deaths within the Russian armed forces. Ms. Marchenko has successfully sought justice on behalf of bereaved families of servicemen who died as a result of cruel and inhumane conditions.

Ms. Mutabar Tadjibayeva (Uzbekistan)
Imprisoned for criticizing her government's handling of events surrounding the 2005 violence in the city of Andijon, Mutabar Tadjibayeva refuses to be silenced. She has returned to human rights advocacy, and remains a fearless critic of human rights abuses.

Ms. Reem Al Numery (Yemen)
When she was 12, Reem Al Numery had her childhood cut short when she was forced to marry her 30-year -old cousin. She has emerged as a strong and brave voice on behalf of other girls facing a similar fate. Her courage has inspired a widespread drive against child marriages in Yemen.

In this morning's New York Times, Steven Lee Myers offers "6 Years In, Troops Glimpse Real Path Out of Iraq." And he uses the figure 142,000 for US troops in Iraq which is a good time to grab a visitor's e-mail from Thursday. Why would someone say 142,000? That was the question in the e-mail. Because it's the number the White House is pushing and it's so much easier to go along. What's 4,000 if it makes the White House happy? Of course, once you start down that slope, it can quickly become what's 10,000, what's 20,000 and pretty soon 146,000 troops in Iraq are referred to as 30,000. It doesn't happen overnight, but when you allow the White House to misnumber, it does happen as reality (and independence) are chipped away bit by bit. Click here for the Los Angeles Times reporting 146,000 and, note, this was prior to
Barack's Little Big Horn speech.

It's a lengthy article Myers has written and some of it's strong and some of it's weak. (Nation building? Making a crack about Bully Boy's alleged disdain for nation building? That was fresh in 2001 when he immediately went back on his campaign talk. It's a moldy oldy today.) Myers also seems unable or unwilling to admit (as even the leaked RAND study did this week) that the 'enemy' in Iraq is more than al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The article's strengths include observing: "It means ceding real control to Iraq's government, something the United States has previously done more in word than in deed." It's a mixed bag. Maybe that happens when Iraq is kept out of the paper and an article like this (which should be twice as long -- and I'm sure Myers would have no problem writing an article that lengthy) has to cover more than can be reasonably fit into the space allotted.

Last night, various community members took place in a roundtable on Iraq:

Cedric's Big Mix
12 hours ago

The Daily Jot
12 hours ago

Mikey Likes It!
12 hours ago

Thomas Friedman is a Great Man
Roundtable on Iraq
12 hours ago

Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude
roundtable on iraq
12 hours ago

Roundtabling Iraq
12 hours ago

Trina's Kitchen
The Roundtable in the Kitchen
12 hours ago

Ruth's Report
Putting Iraq back on the table
12 hours ago

Oh Boy It Never Ends
Iraq roundtable
12 hours ago

Like Maria Said Paz
Iraq roundtable
12 hours ago

Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills)
12 hours ago

The Common Ills
Iraq roundtable
13 hours ago

[Mike note: I'm posting this for C.I. and I went to State Dept page to add a photo to what C.I.'s written. I've put it up at Flickr. State Dept website says the photo (used above) is Hillary Clinton and Sergey V. Lavrov. Elaine took one look and said, "He's too young. There's no gray in his hair on the sides, where are the glasses?" So it's apparently not Lavrov. I don't know who it is. So this will pass for the caption to the photo in this entry. :D]

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oh boy it never ends

Friday, March 06, 2009

Iraq roundtable

Rebecca: We're doing an Iraq roundtable tonight and we'll do one next Friday as well as part of the lead up to the March 19th actions.  We've done two roundtables already in recent weeks and  participating tonight are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ava,  me, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Trina of Trina's Kitchen, Wally of The Daily Jot, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ and Ruth of Ruth's Report. Betty and Cedric participate by phone.  In the last Iraq roundtable, Jim of Third Estate sat in with us to figure out a way to see if there was a way to make it more manageable at Third to do a roundtable.  What's been decided is that the core six of Third -- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I. -- along with Kat who lives in the same area and Betty and Wally who live at C.I.'s home will do an Iraq roundtable at Third.  Others can participate if they want but most will be taking the chance to bail and be done at an earlier time than usual.  Except for Cedric and Betty, we are all at Trina's for this roundtable.  I'm going to toss to Mike to start with because, twice this week, the Associated Press tried to spin on Iraq and he blogged about both times.  Mike?
Mike: Okay,  First up, February ended and March began so it was time for 'monthly stats.'  As C.I. had pointed out, February violence -- by Iraqi government figures -- was up 35% but the AP wanted you to believe, via their headline and spin, 'second lowest month ever!'  Then yesterday it was "sharply reduced budget" which was only a 7% reduction.  It's amazing when you think of how little coverage Iraq gets currently that they still have time to spin. 
Cedric: And, as is noted in today's snapshot,  James Rainey (Los Angeles Times) reports broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC offered 1/10 less coverge of Iraq in 2008 compared to 2007 and they haven't even filed 12 stories so far this year.  So it really is something, as Mike said, with so little coverage of Iraq that AP still finds the need to spin.  How many articles did the New York Times offer this week?
C.I.: In print?  I believe Alissa J. Rubin's made it into print today but I couldn't read those pages of the paper since they were printed with mystery ink --
Rebecca: The pages were blank.  No quality control at the New York Times.
C.I.: Right.  There was Rubin's article we covered today that hopefully was in the paper -- but a pretty important John F. Burns article last week never made the paper though it was online -- and, earlier in the week, Tuesday, one of those 'justice' in Iraq pieces, by Steven Lee Myers.  That's it in the paper. 
Elaine: And yet the company spends millions staffing Iraq and never gets called on it by Wall Street.  If you're going to spend the money, you should have something to show for it.  I'm sure that will be seen as, "Pull the Iraq coverage!"  That's not what I'm saying and pulling it will not suddenly make the coverage cost effective.  If they pulled it tomorrow, they would still not be able to justify the costs of the coverage.
Ava: Whereas if anyone at the paper did more than sit on their ass, they would run an Iraq article in the paper every day and they would advertise their coverage.  "Why we read the New York Times?  We're in the United States. We're in Iraq, We're in Afghanistan.  We're everywhere you need."  That's what you do when you are discredited, when your entire industry is discredited -- and it is, it's seen as antiquated -- you make a point to show what you have.  You make a point to advertise. 
Rebecca: I'm going to jump in because that's true.  P.R. is what I did and I was very good at it.  You want people to buy you, you need to tell them why.  Were the paper not the New York Times, it would be having even more problems.  But they need to make it clear to people who don't know the brand or don't care why they should pick up the paper.  And you can't just say it.  You have to show it.  If they used a slogan like Ava's and someone sees it and picks up the paper, Iraq better be in there and not by AP.  The paper's only calling card is what they can offer that no one else can.  That means filing, filing, filing.  Always filing.  One of the things they skipped, that everyoe skipped is in C.I.'s snapshot today, a February 23rd press conference in Baghdad on prisons.  Let's talk about that just to emphasize it.  Ruth?
Ruth: At one point, according to US Brig Gen David Quantock, and I find this shoking, the US military was holding 900 Iraqi juveniles. That is the highest number, according to the general, the US ever held in Iraq at one time.  That is appalling and so is the idea that the US military is currently holding 38 Iraqi juveniles. 
Kat: That is disgusting, I'm with Ruth.  And it's disgusting that at one point we had nearly 1,000 children imprisoned.  What's an average?  Do we know? Average number of Iraqi prisoners.
C.I.: I'm tired but we can go with 18,000 because I can get a link for that in April 2007 -- a Washington Post article if I'm remembering correctly.
Kat: So nearly 1,000 children and in 2007, the total prison population, run by the US that the US will admit to, was 18,000?  That is disgusting.  And why is the US military holding children to begin with? 
Ruth: And, really, what is the waves in America.  There was a tiny wave of repulsion when it was revealed that the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba had children and then we apparently all decided we could live with it or had expressed ourselves as a country.  And I see this momentary pang really benefits the US government and allows them to avoid being accountable or facing pressure to stop their disgraceful actions. 
Rebecca: I believe "pang" is the correct word for it, as Ruth used it, because it illustrates exactly how momentary outrage has become.  It's disgusting.  Say your spiel and then quickly move on to the 'fun' stuff because we have so many other things we can do.  And Ava and C.I. just exchanged a look. 
Ava: Sorry, TV thing.  Complaint from a friend with a show and we just both had an idea of how to address it.  Non-Iraq related, go on.
Rebecca: Okay.  The way it works is Ava and C.I. are taking the notes. We're all also drinking and if they both need a break, Trina will grab the notes if they nod to her.  Cedric and Betty may or may not be drinking.  But if someone wants a link, they only get it if they say so.  Otherwise Ava and C.I. -- who will type this up -- aren't under any obligation to hunt down a link.  Betty, Cedric, drinking alcohol?
Cedric: No.  Was planning a beer or two but my stomach started killing me after lunch today and still is.  Betty?
Betty: Dona and Ty made margaritas so I've been sipping on one since we started.  I'm half-way through with it. 
Rebecca: So everyone but Cedric, whose poor stomach is bothering him, is drinking.  We have beers and drinks here.  And wine.  Ruth and Stan are hitting the wine.  Trina, Mike, Wally and I are having beers.  Ava and C.I. have Bloody Marys in front of them but are doing shots of tequila more than sipping from those.  And my husband, by the way, is playing bartender.  Sherry, longtime reader at my site, asked what we drank during the roundtables since we'd mentioned booze before.  Now Goldie had a question as well.  It's about actions.  There's one coming up.  Who wants to note that?
Stan: I'll grab that.  Numerous groups -- such as  The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War -- are taking part in an action in almost two weeks.  Iraq Veterans Against the War explains:

IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21st  
As 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
Rebecca: Thank you, Stan.  Goldie's taking part in it and she assumes Kat, Wally, Ava and C.I. -- who are on the road Monday through Friday talking about the illegal war -- are promoting this when they speak on campuses and to groups.  That is correct?  Wally, you haven't spoken?
Wally: Yeah.  We go over that twice.  We grab it at the start and at the end of every discussion.  A little before Valentine's Day, we started including it in every talk to be sure people had advance notice because they might need to travel.
Rebecca: And what's the reaction?
Wally: Right now it's positive, especially among people my age and younger -- actually, really younger.  It's been over two years since the last real action and, people may not realize this, that's two new classes in college.  You've got freshman and sophomores who never saw any national actions on Iraq during their college careers.   Now Goldie, she started going to protests when she was in middle school and she started her own house party -- she and her mother -- to end the illegal war.  But not everyone's like that.  And there are juniors and seniors in high school who we speak to who want to take part.  Whether they will or not, I don't know.  But Wednesday one was telling me that he felt like he had to find a way to be there because he, his words, had not take a public stand against the Iraq War.  I'd say there is strong interest.
Kat: And that's good because most people who are interested won't go.  We all know that.  We've seen it over and over with each activity.  But it's not just when it comes to protesting the illegal war.  Let's say we all love --
Betty: Diana Ross!
Kat: Diana Ross, okay.  And she's coming to the Bay Area and we're all saying we'll go and our friends are saying it and when the concert rolls around out of fifty people saying they'll go maybe 10 will try to get tickets, maybe eight. 
Marcia: I agree, people always talk more than they do -- and they have someone just like themselves in the White House now! -- but, Kat, is this enthusiasm across the board?
Kat: No.  And, Marcia, I'm going to let Wally cover the rest of it because I've spoken and spoken and you, Stan, Wally, Betty and Cedric haven't.  But I feel like I've jawed everyone's ears off.  Wally?
Wally: Right.  Marcia, guess where the enthusiasm is and where it's not?
Marcia: Enthusiasm with the young.
Wally: Exactly.  Why did you guess that?
Marcia: Because you emphasized high school and college in your remarks. 
Wally: UPFJ is United For Peace and Justice and everyone participating in this roundtable knows just how useless that organization is.  But we follow Iraq regularly.  Now young people know UPFJ is worthless because it's not uncommon now to find the organization called out and they don't do s**t to end the Iraq War.  So students know.  If you're in college or high school and you follow the Iraq War even a little, you generally know that UPFJ is not a peace group, is not a group working to end the Iraq War.
Marcia: But?
Wally: But adults are different.  Maybe because they're busy with their lives?  I don't know.  But they seem to panic a bit over UPFJ's refusal to join in and they will ask things like, "Is this another A.N.S.W.E.R. - UPFJ split?"
Stan: So how do you explain it?  You're speaking to labor groups and to women's groups, and to the elderly as well.  How do you explain to them that UPFJ isn't doing anything?
Wally: Sometimes we'll try to do the slow walk through.  More often that doesn't work so we toss to C.I. who has a two-line quip that explains it all, gets a laugh and we move on to the groups who matter.
Cedric: What's the joke?
Wally: We're using it now so we won't tell.
Cedric: Backing up.  You were very effective campaigning for Hillary.  For those who don't know, every state Wally campaigned in for Hillary, Hillary Clinton won. I was fortunate enough to spend about a month with him in Texas on that and Marcia spent about a month or six weeks with him in other states working on that.  During that period everyone wanted to know about Wally's effective speech.
Wally: Oh sure.  We should have told that awhile back --
C.I.: Stop.  The set up you need before Wally speaks is to know he's a young man, blond, very good looking --
Betty: Young Robert Redford!
C.I.: I didn't say that, I know he gets tired of hearing it.  But Wally's charming people, men and women.  And if you're older, especially, than Wally, when he explains what he's about to explain, you really want to help him make it right.  Wally?
Wally:  So let's say someone shows up for us to talk about Hillary, okay?  And let's say it's when the media's trying to run Hillary out of the race --
Cedric: So bascially, hours after the Iowa caucus ends.
Wally: That's true, I'm laughing.  But let's say it's a little further down.  Let's say we're in Ohio because I didn't campaign there and I don't have to worry that someone's going to say "You must like ___ state better than my state!"  So I'm in Ohio and someone says, "You know, I want to vote for Hillary but the thing is the media says it's over for her."  And that's when I explain, look, I'm from Florida.  I don't know if you know this, but we did our part.  We went to the polls and we voted and we overwhelmingly chose Hillary.  Now they won't let her have the votes she won.  They're saying our primary won't even be counted.  I've been robbed of my vote.  My grandfather, my mom, we've all been denied our right to vote.  And they may get away with stealing our votes.  But if you go and vote for Hillary, you're not just speaking for you, you're speaking for all of us in Florida who overwhelmingly chose Hillary and our votes aren't being counted.  You're helping us and you're saying, it's not right, and we don't treat Florida that way, we don't treat anyone that way, this is America. 
Marcia: That's the condensed summary and you really need to hear him expand upon it.  It was an amazing speech and there were people, especially African-Americans, who would be nodding with Wally with tears in their eyes.  I saw many people nod along with him, but African-Americans -- probably because we remember it was us denied in Florida in 2000 -- would really get behind what Wally was saying and usually shout out support.  When Wally gave that speech, you did not want to go after him because no one was listening to you.  They were thinking about Wally's speech and about Florida 2000 and just wondering what the hell the Democratic Party was doing and what they'd become that they would deny anyone the right to vote?  And to pull this back to Iraq, when we speak, that's what we all basically do.  And Wally credits C.I. with that.  I credit Wally because he's the one I spoke with day after day and saw it in action.  You have to be you, you have to bring you to the table.  I can't compete with Wally and be a better Wally.  But I can find something about, for example, Iraqi refugees that speaks to me, that reminds me of my own life and I can talk about it that way and be effective.  Maybe not the best, but effective.
Rebecca: Okay, before we started, C.I. jotted a few notes down for me of topics to explore if we hit a block.  We haven't, but one of them was, C.I. noted this, IVAW's Matthis Chiroux wants people to focus on the refugees and the dead.  I'm assuming this is in the discussion with Debra Sweet, Matthis and Elaine Brower that people can see the video of
C.I., can you set that up and then I'll come back to Marcia with a question about refugees.
C.I.: Sure.  Matthis Chiroux, first off, has a hearing March 12th in St. Louis, Missouri, regarding his decision to stick with his discharge, thank you very much, and refuse to ship off to Iraq when the military tried to pull him back into the service.  That's one of the things there wasn't room for in the snapshot today and it ended up being cut.  But that hearing takes place March 12th and you can find out more by clicking here.  As you guessed, it does take place in the discussion with Debra Sweet and Elaine Brower.  He expresses the belief that it's time for America to find it's conscience and that he's used to the signs of X number of US service members killed or wounded but what he wants to see this time is recognition of what's been done to the people of Iraq.  And Afghanistan, but I focus on Iraq.  So he wants to see acknowledgements of how many people have been killed, how many people have been turned into refugees, etc. 
Rebecca: Okay.  And, for the record, no one supports the Afghanistan War here.  I don't believe anyone ever has but I know Elaine and C.I. -- and have known them since we roomed together in college -- and they were adamantally opposed to the Afghanistan War before it started.  They never drank the Kool-Aid, whether George serves it up or Barack.  Now Marcia, in Iraq, there is a refugee crisis.  You have approximately four million refugees -- both external, who've fled the country, and internal, who remain in the country. You're speaking to high schoolers, how do you connect or get that story across?
Marcia: I speak briefly about when I was a little girl and my grandfather died and my grandmother lost the house.  How devastating that was and how, even with adults trying to keep that from me, the reality of it, I knew enough and it scared me and I was frightened my parents would lose their home and where would we live and where would my toys go or my dog?  And I'd talk about how I wasn't at risk.  And it wasn't as if all around me people were becoming homeless.  But that did frighten me.  And imagine if I had grown up in Iraq, during this war, when refugees were normal.  When living in tent cities or on the streets -- as so many Iraqi children do -- was normal.  And maybe I make it through and maybe I don't, but what does that mean if I do?  What happened to my grandmother is nothing I have ever forgotten.  Imagine what it's like for an Iraqi child who ends up on the streets.  She or he has lost at least one if not both parents.  And is trying to survive, to make it, in a war zone.  Think about it.
Ruth: Marcia, that was very good.  Very good.
Marcia: I learned watching Wally.  Grab that experience that is your own and use it to talk about what you want to.
Rebecca: Yes, well done, Marcia.  Okay, let's talk about external refugees which have been in the news lately and the US State Dept, as C.I. noted in two snapshots this week, had a problem with a press briefing in terms of accuracy about information. 
Betty: Right, they had to correct it after the press conference.  Which goes to how confusing the process is for Iraqi refugees if even State Dept spokespeople find the process confusing.  I want to talk about something here.   There was a couple in a snapshot awhile back.  They had both been college professors in Iraq.  They were desperate for work and frightened that they would have to return to Iraq because they couldn't find work.  It's the Feb. 27th snapshot, please link to it here, and the woman wa Rand Hikmat-Mahmood who had settled in Houston, Texas with her family.  And C.I. made the point of asking why they were in Houston?  Why they were in Fort Worth, for example, which is close to a base or has one, and where they could be teaching soldiers about Iraq.  And I agree with that.  We're willing to spend tons of money on that deceitful counterinsurgency; however, we have two people, educators, who can provide information about Iraq, and the culture, to soldiers and we're not using them?  Why does Rand Hikmat-Mahmood have to look for work?  Why didn't someone -- in the long process that she and her husband had to go through to get to the US -- suggest to them that they give trainings on Iraq?  That is pretty obvious.  And she and her husband would be earning their money but the fact that they are refugees due to a war this country started, I wouldn't care if she wasn't a qualified educator and had every class play Simon Says for an hour.  I know she wouldn't do that,she came off like a very professional woman.  But I'm saying,t he US has some huge debts to make good on with Iraqis.  The very least they can do is put her in a job she's qualified for that will assist her and assist the service members.
Rebecca: Betty, I think you said that beautifully and think we can move into debt unless someone has something to add?  No?  Okay.  Like I said, Betty covered it.  Well done.  Okay, there is a debt and the debat is both for what the US military did under orders and what they did on their own.  Let me change that to what they did under legal orders because you're not supposed to obey an unlawful order.  In today's snapshot, C.I. emphasized Steven Dale Green and Santos A. Cardona.  I need Stan, Mike and Cedric to speak during this and Ruth can come in as well and I'd love it if Elaine did.  But I'm looking at the time and we need to wrap up so Stan, Mike and Cedric, get in here.  Both Green and Cardona have War Crimes in common.  Steve D. Green is accused of them and denies them and Santos A. Cardona was tried for them and found guilty.
C.I.: Found guilty of one.
Rebecca: Okay.  So Stan, grab one.  The accused or the convicted.  Grab one and start us off.
Stan: I'll go with Cardona.  He was found guilty in the Abu Ghraib scandal.  He is the dog handler in some of the photos with the dog snarling at naked Iraqi prisoners.   You know what, I'm passing to Cedric.  He and Wally have been vocal on this topic in the past.
Cedric: Contractors?  Yeah.  Your kids need you at home.  You go out and risk your life to try and make big bucks don't kid yourself that you're doing it for your kids. Wally and I both lost our fathers early on and we don't have any sympathy for the "I wanted to make money for my kids!" nonsense. Your kids need you there, more than anything else, they need you there.  And he leaves behind a daughter.  The Washington Post had an article today about it that was boo-hoo city.  And who really cares?  He wanted to make money, he became a mercenary.  People who do that can die.  It's why it's not a smart job to try to turn a profit in a war zone.  So he gets convicted and he can't re-enlist.  They don't kick him out, but they won't let him sign up for another hitch.  New rule should be that if you're convicted for abuse of any sort, you're out.  That should obviously be conduct unbecoming for all service members.  So he ends up becoming a mercenary in Afghanistan after that.  With his dog.  And I don't have any tears for the man.  I don't.  No tears at all.  Stan?
Stan: Well, on the tears, I think the issue is basically that we're not in the mood.  Abu Ghraib was a War Crime -- non-stop War Crimes.  And you can be one of the low hanging fruit and complain that those at the top walked, no problem.  But you can't be a low hanging fruit that refuses to take accountability and that's what Cardona was.  It wasn't his fault and those people at the top didn't get punished!  You terrorized Iraqis.  You were in a position of authority and trust.  You terrorized them.  They didn't know whether you'd let the dog actually rip them to shreds or not.  They lived in terror because of you.  You can whine that were you told to do it but you need to take accountability for what you did.  You can point to higher-ups but that doesn't change the fact thatyou need to take accountability. 
Mike: I think Stan just summarized it perfectly.  If you took part in abuse at Abu Ghraib, I don't need for you to rot in hell.  You're really not my concern.  I would hope you would try to make amends for what you did.  But you become my concern when I hear that you are minimizing your actions.  What was done?  War Crimes.  And, hey, blow the whistle on every one above you.  I'll applaud you for it.  Even after you've been convicted.  But don't ever think that because there was evil at the top, you're innocent.  You weren't.  You knew better.  An eight-year-old boy knows not to threaten his little brother with a dog.  So Cordova really has no excuse.  And he made no efforts to make amends -- apparently because he didn't feel it was his fault.  I agree with Stan, this, "It's their fault," that doesn't cut it.  You need to take accountability.  You didn't shoot an innocent Iraqi child by accident because you were storming into a home with guns blazing in the middle of a battle.  That's awful, but that's not a war crime.  It's a tragedy. It's a mistake.  But I don't think most people would feel the service member was at all responsible.  But there's a world of difference between that andbeing assigned to a prison and deciding you can abuse and terrorize prisoners.   And saying, "I was ordered to."  Well you know what's right and what's wrong.  Does that mean you could've stopped?  It means you should have.  Now maybe you're too weak willed to stand up?  Well that's what it is but that doesn't change that you are accountable for your actions.
Stan: And there was no sense of accountability.  Just a push to erase it.  This "I will prove that's not who I am."  Well, if that's not who you are then, when you bring it up, people expect to hear remorse from you.  Like Mike said, no one's saying, "Rot in hell!"  That's for -- my opinion -- someone else to determine.  But we're not going to pretend like you were tricked into what you did.  You need to take accountability.
Cedric: Of all of them, I feel sorry for Lynddie England because, honestly, she didn't strike me as all there.  But even with that sympathy, if she gave an interview where she didn't take accountability for what she did -- and we all remember her from those photos, I'd have no sympathy for her.  Those were War Crimes.  And we don't even know how bad things were, remember, because the US Congress decided the American people didn't have right to see all the abuse.
Rebecca: Good point, Cedric, and good points all.  We still have Steven D. Green.  Any of you three that wants to jump in, feel free.  But I'm tossing to Ruth to start.
Ruth: I am going to toss to Betty for set-up and then I will offer a few quick thoughts. 
Betty: Thank you, Ruth. Steven D. Green stands accused of being the ring-leader in the gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and the murders of Abeer's parents and her five-year-old sister.  Other US soldiers accused have entered guilty pleas and all have fingered Green as the ring-leader.  Abeer's brother has noted that she did not like Green, that he made her uncomfortable.  He was in charge of a checkpoint right by her house.  One day, as he got more foward -- remember this is a 14-year-old girl -- he ran his hand along her face.  She lived in terror and complained to her parents.  Had the assault been planned for the next day, Abeer wouldn't have been there because her parents had planned for her to stay in another home starting the next day.  They were attempting to protect her.  But Green, who states he is innocent -- doe she?  Wait a second, C.I., Green, in the snapshot today, we learn Green filed his intent to plead not guilty by reasons of insanity.  So is that the same as claiming he's innocent?
C.I.: You're correct.  Your point is correct.  If someone pleads not guilty by reasons of insanity, they aren't pleading innocent.  But the thing to remember is that Steven D. Green has not spoken to the press and his attornenys no longer speak to the press.  The last anyone heard from Green or an attorney speaking on his belahf, the statement was that Green was innocent.  Once the trial starts, April 27th, if Green enters a plea of not guilty by reason  of insanity, then it really isn't accurate to simply state, "Green claims he is innocent."  That plea is one that says: "I am guilty but I shouldn't be held liable due to my frame of mind."  If he enters that plea, we certainly won't be under any obligation to state, "Green asserts he is innocent."  We may start using "Green admits his guilt" because that is what's taking place.  And that really is telling about the case.  Because if they stick with that plea, Green is confessing.  He says, "But wait, because there's one more thing I want to tell you, but, yes, I am guilty."  Did that do it?
Betty: Yes, thank you, that covered it.  So when his attorneys used to talk to the press it was conveyed he was innocent.  That appears to have changed.  Ruth?
Ruth: Well, I am glad Betty brought up that point and C.I. clarified it, however, it left me with little to say.  So, if he pleads that way, as his legal team has indicated, he is not denying he took part in the crimes.  Will the anti-death penalty people take up his cause?
Ava: Let me grab that because Jess, my boyfriend Jess, is anti-death penalty and works on that issue as do his parents.  But they've said they don't believe in the death penalty but this isn't going to be an issue for them.  They point to it being international in scope. Meaning, it's not a simple case.  And, as advocates, it would require more teaching moments than will be possible. 
Trina: Well, I would think, my opinion, that it would be a loser for the cause -- and I'm firmly opposed to the death penalty.  But you've got a man who appears to be about to plead, "Yes, I was the ringleader."  That means he planned the whole thing.  Not just the crimes of rape and murder, but also the cover up.  Add in that he's an adult and she's a child, Abeer was a child.  Add in that it was his job, given to him by the US government, to protect her neighborhood.  I mean, it's like, "Are we going to make the execution of a prison guard who willfully murdered prisoners are cause?"  I mean, it would be great if we did.  It would mean that the issue had progressed so far that we were saying, "No one deserves to be put to death."  But we're not there yet. The movement tries to find the most sympathetic -- and often photogenic -- test cases.  That's not a negative criticims on my part.  There's much work to be done on the issue and on awareness.  I understand the reluctance. 
Rebecca: Trina speaking right now reminds me that she hasn't spoken and I actually wrote her name down but forgot about her.  Trina, I'm so sorry.  Okay, let's operate under the assumption that his plea is going to be not guilty by reason of insanity and that he's not quibbling over any of the charges.  Describe what the means Steven D. Green did.
Trina: That would mean that -- as the other soldiers testified -- he planned it all.  He lusted after this under-age girl. He knew it was wrong and this was not spur of the moment but a carefully crafted plan.  As ringleader, he was the one deciding who went with him into the home and who was the lookout.  And, note, that this was all planned ahead of time because everyone knew what to wear.  C.I., help me, those still in the military had invidual trials but they all had the same court-martial.  What did the prosecutor say at the hearing?
Trina: And they carried it out.  They plotted it and they carried it out.  The others in the house -- meaning participating in the gang-rape of Abeer -- say they started the gang-rape while Green murdered Abeer's sister and her parents in the bedroom.  They gang-rape took place in the living room.  So they're raping her, one after the other, and she can hear her parents being killed in the next room, she can hear her sister being killed.  Then Steven D. Green comes out and wants his 'turn'.  So he gang-rapes her and then kills her. Then he tries to set her body on fire so that they can dispose of the evidence and blame it on insurgents.  They then return to the base, where they proceed to grill chicken wings, kick back and get drunk.  I don't see any public sympathy for Green but maybe his lawyers are miracle workers?  I don't know. 
Rebecca: Trina, cutting you off for a moment.  I don't think anyone feels sympathetic for Green.  But let me play devil's advocate.  C.I., you're building sympathy for Steven D. Green, what do you do?
C.I.: Didn't you leave out "pop quiz," Dennis Hopper?  Uh, well I stress the troubled childhood.  I stress the stunted effects that had on his maturity and growth.  I talk about his non-stop trouble with the law and, in effect, put the US military on trial.  I ask why -- and I've made this argument at The Common Ills -- no red flags went up when Green attempted to enlist, either while in jail or while leaving?  Where were the red flags?  I put the US military on trial and ask for the records.  I cast doubt that the US military was unaware of what Green was, what his problems were.  My guess is they willfully ignored the red flags.  But I would plant doubt there.  I would ask what happens when you put a troubled -- beyond troubled from private accounts I've heard -- young man, emotionally not even an adult yet into a combat zone?  What happens?  I would throw to the jury repeatedly.  I'd point to Steven and say, "I think we all know what happens.  I guess the question is, 'Are we thatmuch smarter than the US military or did the US military take a gamble?'  And if they rolled the dice, why is the only one being forced to pay Steven D. Green?"  To be perfectly clear, I am very angry about the actions I perceive Steven D. Green was responsible for,participated in and orchestrated.  However, go back to some of the early snapshots when his problems are first known.  I don't want us to go around saying, "Hang 'em."  One by one.  But I will say for the record that if he doesn't get the death penalty, I won't be surprised and I won't be screaming my head off -- in person or online.  From what I'm hearing, he's a very sick person and, if that's true, and if his attorneys can establish that, then he never should have been accepted into the military, the 'moral' waiver never should have been granted and the US military command needs to take accountability for their actions because, if true and presented convincingly, Steven D. Green has serious problems.  Now I'm not saying he does have these problems.  I am saying that's the word and that's what's being tested.  If true, if it holds up in court, it could change the dynamic.  Add in that most outlets refused to even print Abeer's name and she remains faceless and nameless to so many and you're dealing with a victim few can relate to.  The prosecution would be very smart to get her brother and put him on the stand.  If they don't and they lose, they will have that mistake to blame for it.  They need to bring her brother into the United States for the trial.  For them to win what they want to win, the prosecution needs to put a face on Abeer.  The jury will hear all about 'poor Steven.'  Abeer's just a dead girl in another country -- from the jury's perspective.  They don't know her so she's already the 'other.'  They don't know her so they have no ties to her.  I think Capt Pickands did an amazing job bringing her to life in the Article 32 hearing in the summer of 2006; however, that went to him and his style.  I wouldn't count on the same thing from this team of prosecutors.  They need Abeer's photo in that courtroom and they need her brother.  They need the family member who misses her, the family member who lost her, who lost his parents, who lost his five-year-old sister.  Without him in the courtroom, you're talking about a crime which took place overseas in a war zone -- the jury will be thinking that -- and happened to a bunch of people with 'strange' names that no one knows.  So if they lose or even have a partial loss and they did not call the brother to the stand, the prosecution will have only themselves to blame.
Trina: I think, Rebecca's pointing to me, I think C.I. makes the case for the defense and the prosecution.  I don't know.  I don't know how it's going to go.  What I do know is that he got into legal trouble and was sane or aware enough to know that he could go into the military and escape consequences for his actions.  That apparently was part of his road of not believing in consequences.  I appreciated both views C.I. just offered but I really do think it comes down to that point C.I. made about whether or not the brother's there or the prosecution manages to put a face on the victims in some other way.  If he did what he's accused of, he murdered four people in cold blood.  Without any real remorse.  Without any real hesitation.  If they put a face on his victims, I see him getting convicted and getting the death penalty because, if I were serving on the jury, what I'd be thinking was, "Four people are dead.  He joined the military to escape consequences.  If he gets away with these murders and the gang-rape, no one in the US is safe from him."
Rebecca: Ruth, Betty, closing thoughts.  Starting with Betty.
Betty: I think I'm the only one other than Ava, C.I., Wally and Kat who saw the stream of the discussion about the Iraq War and Afghanistan.  I believe it's Debra Sweet who says that we're about to hit the sixth anniversary of this illegal war and we don't want to see the seventh.  We don't.  So what's it going to take. Elaine Browder believes, and I don't doubt her, that it's going to take massive civil disobedience.  Sit-ins that shut down a city for example.  There is so much to do, this is what I'm saying, and if you can't at least participate in the actions on the 19th or 21st, how do you make up for that?  Do you chain yourself to the door at City Hall?  I don't know.  I know that the easiest thing in the world is for us to participate in these actions.  There's so much more that could be done and should be done and these actions that are scheduled are nothing to be scared of.  If I can go on for just one more second, Matthis made a point that I would have stood and applauded if I'd been there.  He pointed out that just because Barack's "Black" -- put quotes around that, because he isn't and I don't consider him to be that -- doesn't mean that the racist wars are any less racist.  I thought that took and demonstrated real guts and I wanted to give him some praise for that.  It took a lot to make that valid point and a lot of people wouldn't have even attempted it.
Ruth: What Betty said.  Seriously.  I really think that if you do not stand up with these actions, you really are asking for this to be just the mid-way point of the illegal war.  At least the mid-way point.  If you're not going to participate, you really are asking for actions to stop and for the illegal war to continue.  I did not have time to watch the stream but from what Betty said and a summary C.I. gave me earlier, Matthis Chiroux was talking about accountability.  This is what we were talking about earlier.  Guess what?  If you do nothing, you are no better than the War Criminals from Abu Ghraib who try to offer excuses.  If you sit silently and allow this illegal war to continue, you are sending a message to the world that you endorse and embrace the slaughter. 
Rebecca: And on that note, we'll wrap this up.  This is a rush transcript.  We will do another Iraq roundtable next Friday.

Iraq snapshot

Friday, March 6, 2009.  Chaos and violence no doubt continue (it's Friday, forget getting a violence report on today's violence out of Iraq), Amnesty documents the violence targeting Iraqi women, a Feb. 23rd press conference contained all sorts of details about Iraqi prisoners but US audiences didn't get to hear about it, some talk reality (Debra Sweet, Matthis Chirous and Elaine Bower) and more. 
Yesterday in NYC, Elaine Brower, Matthis Chiroux and Debra Sweet discussed upcoming actions and the need for them.  Click here to stream at wearechangetv.  Debra Sweet is the national director of World Can't Wait and this from the discussion:
Debra Sweet:  To my right is Matthis Chiroux who is a resister of the Iraq War -- someone who came out of the US army and decided that he would refuse orders to go into Iraq.  And he's courageously right now fighting a battle with the US army so that he's not put in a position of having to back off that stand and he's trying to make a fight on principle. That the war is illegitimate in the first place and no one should have to serve.  We got to know him very well when he led a group of Iraq Veterans Against the War and hundreds of others of us to protest at the last debate between Obama and McCain out in Hampstea,d New York -- a bunch of them got beat up.  And what they did  were very righteous.  To my left is Elaine Brower who is also a member of  World Can't Wait and also a member of many other organizations -- such as Peace Action, Military Families Speak Out -- and is leading a national effort to get the Guard out of the federal government which would allow, we hope, them to be pulled out of US military adventures around the [world] including Iraq and Afghanistan. So we want to just have a conversation first among ourselves and, once we turn the cameras off, we'll bring everyone else in New York into this conversation. And again we're urging people listening right now to listen and then go out and make your plans for March 19th. Thursday March 19th is two weeks from today. There's plenty of time to make the kind of strong message we need to put together, emanating from this country. So I want to turn to Matthis and Elaine and ask a couple of questions.  We're going to have a conversation.  First of all what do we think about the responsibilities of the people living in this country in regards to the occupations of both Iraq and Afghanistan  and especially the escalation of Afghanistan 17,000 more troops being sent by Obama and what about the responsibility  we have for the US torture state and the announcement that, number one,  there will be no prosecution, if Obama has anything to say about it, of the people who put together the us torture state and, number two, that he wants to continue both the use of state secrets to keep this quiet and secret rendition to take people from third countries to be tortured.  I guess I've given an indication of what I think about this but let's hear from Matthis and Elaine.
Matthis Chiroux:  Hi, everybody here, everybody here, joining us at home via the internet, all around the world.  Thank you for taking this moment  to try and understand where our responsibility lies in this movement to resist the crimes of our government.  What Debra said is very true. I think it is our responsibility to not only be organizing and demonstrating against these occupations but to being taking responsibly for them because ultimately I believe this isn't Bush's war, this isn't Obama's war, this is  America's war.  And in a democratic society, the more we would like to believe that we have a say so, in the same sense the more responsibility that we share for the actions of our elected representatives.   It is imperative that the entire country go into mourning on March 19th for the 2 million dead of both of the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our movement needs to be distancing itself from President Obama. I'm sorry to say it because I know he was many of our candidate. But he has chosen not to be our president instead he has chosen to be an emperor and I protest emperor's and everybody should in this entire country and across this entire planet.  So ultimately it is our responsibility and if we are not in the streets on March 19th protesting loudly and furiously the crimes of our government the world will consider it complicity and we cannot afford for that to happen.  So, as a brief opening statement, yes, it is absolutely our responsibility to oppose these crimes and to demonstrate in the streets and to be putting our bodies on the line for peace and justice as citizens as the world not simply America.  And I'll turn it over to Elaine.
Elaine: Good evening everybody and thanks for being here and thanks for watching.  I just want to say that we invaded Iraq.  It's six years now. And we protested the invasion before it happened and we need to keep protesting the occupation.  And people sort of got complacent with the election coming.  And we see that now there's slogans out there "Yes we can end the war," "Yes we can bring the troops home" but we're not saying what we used to say.  We're not demanding -- demanding -- that the occupation and the wars end now.  What we need to do for the world -- because the Afghani civilians are depending upon us, the soldiers are depending on us and the Iraqi civilians are depending on us to --  get out in the streets in mass mobilization on the 19th and shut down business as usual.  We've been saying this for six years we've tried and we haven't accomplished it. People voted for change twice in this country  In 2006 they went out and they tried to vote in Democrats for change and that didn't happen.  And now they thought, "Well okay so we're going to vote in a new administration that's all Democrats and yes we're gonna get change."  Well maybe we'll get some domestic change but we certainly are not getting a change in foreign policy. In fact If you listen to the pundits, they've been saying that they're very disappointed and things are absolutely not changing under this administration. So it's up to us in the movement to make sure that we're visible not on a weekend but during the week when people can see us out in the streets.  And I know this is difficult to do this and I know -- I've been doing it myself for seven years, pretty much everybody here has been doing it and I know people that are watching  have been doing it. But we cannot stop.  This is the point where really need to mobilize and say, "No, you're not going to continue this killing and occupation in our name with out dollars."  Obama's not talking about taking the mercenaries out of Iraq or Afghanistan. He's only talking about possibly drawing down troops, maybe.  And he could always change his mind depending upon what goes down on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan. So we've got to make sure that they know we're out there.
Debra Sweet: I'd like to talk for a moment, since I raised it and since it's a demand, I think it's a just demand, for March 19th   The occupation of Iraq has to end. I think most people are very clear on that. But I will tell you this right now, many people are not clear about Afghanistan.  Many people are not clear that it is a terrible thing to be sending drones dropping bombs on people in Pakistan.  Many people are not clear  that Obama talking about diplomacy with Iran can be and has been used as just another way of making war on the Middle East and moving towards controlling  it.  And I think our responsibility -- yes, I think we have a responsibility to resist and I really agree with what Matthis and Elaine are saying, but we have even a heavier responsibility.  We have to go out to the people we know who are not in this room, who are not watching who are thinking about something else and thinking everything has been solved and talk to them about why sending 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan after you've already raised the civilian murder rate.  The killing of civilians,  40% in the last year, is absolutely unacceptable.  And this is, I think, part of this heavier layer of responsibilty that I'd like us all to think about and to talk about.  What does it take for people to start looking at this situation not just as Americans but through the eyes of humanity?  And to give you a really shaper example, I was at a peace meeting two nights ago and it was a film called Obama's War. A representative of United For Peace and Justice -- of which World Can't Wait and many of us are members -- actually said, "Aren't you glad this is Obama's War and not McCain's War?"  And I said, and I thought and said to myself, "How do the people in  feel that this is Obama's War?"  Do we think they're celebrating that the bombs being dropped on them have a big "D"  for Democrat on them?  I think hell no. This is an outrage that this president right now is still being seen by people all over the country as an anti-war president.  Let's just be for real, this is a continuation of an unjust war no matter what it is called and it is a rebraniding of  injustice in the name of something that it isn't, peace.  What do you think?
Matthis Chiroux: I absolutely agree.  I think one of the most important things for this movement to remember right now is that while this war was a liability to the Bush administration, it is something that was an embarssment for them.  Every time something about the war came up, they were on the defensive -- trying to defend why we had to go get Saddam Hussein and why we still had to be going after bin laden in Afghanista. And people thought, "Oh, this is your fault.  This is your mistake."  This war is not a liabilty to Obma.  This war is potentially something he can use to look like he's being strong on terror as a Democrat.  This is something that he can escalate.  And if the slightest, tiniest bit of progress can come out of it, this country will want to hail him as the hero of peace and justice and all of that stuff when, in reality, what we're doing is what we've always done.  And I can say it having been in the US military and having been part of the occupation of German and Japan sixty years after WWII. I literally lived in the old Axis of Evil.  And what I learned is that: we never leave.  Right now in Iraq, while people believe that the war is over and that we won and we've struck a blow upon the anvil of imperialism and so on and so forth, it is just not the case. We are building permanent bases and leaving troops on a permanent timetable when we ought to be admitting wrong and paying reperations to people whose society we have destroyed.  And there's no amount of capitulation that we can do to the Obama administration that is going to make the bombs stop falling.  It was one of the first things he did when he took office, the bombs started falling on Pakistan.  And then it came out that he was going to continue this legacy of state secrets to hide the fact that tortture does take place on a regular basis by the orders of the US government .  Fahad Hasmi is still lingushing in solitary confiement right here in NYC  We're talking about Guantanamo closing in a year as being a great victory for this movement when, in fact, all that's going to happen is they're going to shut down and they're going to move them back into the federal system here where every bit as much injustice is occuring.  For those who do not know, Fahad Hashmi is an American citizen who has been held in solitary confiement now for more than a year while in a state of presumed innocence for the supposed crime of allowing af riend to sleep on his couch for two months three or four years ago.  It's craziness.  Obama . . .  I, right now, have a hearing with the military where I'm going to have to defend my decision not to report to duty last summer to deploy to Iraq  The army's decision [applause], I say that because the army's decision to prosecute me, to set a date and show up, didn't come until after Obama took office.  If we could expect serious change that would have stopped. But  It's not. Those policies are continuing  policies that are keeping poeple like Fahad  literally, I'm sorry you don't have to water board someone to torture him. I think leaving him in a solitary confined space for a year without telling them what they did wrong  is torture and we have to oppose that just as loudly.  Look we have to understand change will absoultely not manifest itself in this country until we cease the unjust practices of the past.  And when those unjust practices are simply being rebranded under a different face and a different name, it is our responsibility as a movement to provide clear contrast to something that people want to believe in but is ultimately a fairytale.  Obama has plotted* a clear choice for this country from imperalism to impearlism-lite  And I said it before and I'll say it again, as any ex-smoker will tell you, just because you switched from Reds to Marlboro Lights doesn't mean you quit the habit.  You don't quit the habit  until you put it out and we need to extinughs this war on terror because until we do the habit continues  
Debra Sweet: I want to ask Elaine a specific question because I've known Elaine snce after her son was  deployed to Afghanistan -- right aft 9-11 -- and since then he's been in Iraq twice and in fact he's there for the second time now.  So this is a very personal question and a personal quest but what do we say to people who say that Afghanistan is the good -- "Yeah, yeah, I know Iraq is bad, we should get out of there.  But what about Afghanistan isn't that the good war, isn't this a good thing?"
Elaine: Well it's interesting because as a member of Military Families Speak Out, we just opened up a discussion form because it became a hot topic. Now what's happening is a lot of the military families are seeing their loved ones instead of going to Iraq, they're going to Afghanistan.  And this is something they never expected. So there's a real debate now amongst military families, shouldn't we add this to our mission, shouldn't this be a part of our mission statment that we do not want to send our soldiers to afhgnaistan? And people now are sort of getting on board with that it's dawning on them, "Well why are we going to afghanistan?" They're questioning that: "Well what are we looking for?  The Afghani people never attacked us. Okay, so mabye it was bin Laden, who knows?  We don't even know that for a fact.  But let's say it was that's one person and al Qaeadea is one group of people. So we just bomb Afghansitan? Do we send soldiers into the mountains to kill innocent people in villages  that have nothing to do with this?" So this discussion is starting to surface.  And, no, it is absolutely wrong to send soldiers into Afghanistan.  In fact today I was talking about  National Guard and now they're taking the national guard and sending them to Afghanistan.  For what? Our National Guard is supposed to be here in the  United States responding to any emergeinces we have here -- whether they be hurricanes or accidents of major magnitude.  But they're no longer here. In fact, yesterday in Wisoncisn, they sent 3200  national gaurd members to Iraq they happened to go, but here from Rochester we lost 2000 national guard going to Afhgnistan.  So this is definitaly a situation where, being a military family member, I live and breathe this every day.  I have to tell you personally when you have children what you do -- or a loved one -- I knd of have this little grid in my head.  And I know where my daughter is.  And I know where my husband is. And when my son joined the military I lost track of him in this grid.  And I had to place him where ever he was.  And I was thinking today on my wall, I used to have a map and I had thumbtacks in it.  And before 9-11 and he was in Afghansitan I'd put a thumbtack and then he went to Australia and East Timor and then he kind of got lost in Iraq and it was very traumatic for me.  And I have been going through this for seven years. And there are other military family members who are saying  "When is this going to end?  Even if he's going to keep 50,000 troops in Iraq, who are those 50,000? Are they the same people that have gone three four times already? Or are they now freshly recruiting right out of high school" -- which we've seen new young people -- "to go over there to do what?  What are they protecting?"  They're protecting this monstrotisty of an embassy  What are we doing there? What's the purpose?  So Afghanistan is defintely wrong. I know that and I think now it's sort of bubbling to the surface and people are starting to question that which they didn't before.  But I think we're going to see more of that.  Getting out on the 19th, to me, is very critical because . . . I do not want my son to come back from Iraq -- he's supposed to come back in June, I hope he comes back in one piece --  I don't want to see him go to Afghanistan.  Or back to Iraq for that matter. I want this over and I think pretty much everyone who is in my position does also. 
Consider the above a rush transcript.  Example, Matthis may have said Barack's "charted" and not "plotted."  Second, last night was going to include Judith LeBlanc but Jim called a related section for Third.  Two people present (neither was Debra Sweet) at the event Debra is speaking of (above) called during the event to say Judith LeBlanc had just said "the most insane thing" and "disgusting thing" and it was the story that Debra related.  I have no intention of covering for UPFJ's Judith LeBlanc.  It's all over the peace movement (I've had voice mails and e-mails from easily 200 friends passing it on in the days since it took place) and no one can stop talking about it.  Debra Sweet was nice about it.  It was supposed to be in last night's entry and Judith was going to be named.  Since the story's being told above, I feel no need to be nice (see "Guess Who, Don't Sue" at the end of the snapshot for more on that) and the person is Judith LeBlanc.  Judith hasn't had this much attention since she started wearing those tacky, faux leather, men's sandles a few years back. And, again, I'm not in the mood (see the last item in the snapshot), if you'd like to ask Judith why she said that, her business e-mail should still be You might also want to ask her if she stands by the ridiculous lie she pimps in various interviews about Barack's reach-out to veterans during the DNC convention.  (When he punked IVAW by sending Big Lies From Texas out to disperse them in Denver.)  Then again, why shouldn't Judy spit on the truth?  She already spits on her own family heritage when she calls Barack "Black."
Those who want to chant "Obama! Obama!" while rubbing themselves can join Judith in a frenzied rush but those who want to stop the Iraq War can join with The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War for an action this month. From IVAW's announcement:

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
MN Roy (Cleveland IMC) evaluates Barack's bad, war-on wagging speech from last Friday and remembers to include a shout-out for UPFJ:
Obama's abandonment of even a pretense of appearing to be "anti-war" was further underlined by his keeping Bush's war minister and generals aboard in the name of "non-partisanship." You can be sure that "General Betray-Us," amongst others, has far more say in shaping the policies of the Obama administration vis-a-vis Iraq than any of his slavish supporters in "MoveOn.Org" or UFPJ. While there are plenty of Clinton and Bush era retreads, not to mention generals, in the Obama administration for all to see and hear, where are the representatives of the "mass movement" that supposedly propelled Obama into office? Indeed where is the "mass movement?" You'd think by now that there would have been some sign of protest against the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, the maintenance of the rendition and torture lite or the endless welfare for Wall Street that are becoming the signature items of the Obama regime. Then again, none of them raised a peep, at least not in public, against the Obama endorsed Israeli onslaught against Gaza. Maybe it's that when you keep people off the streets for so long in order to get them into the voting booth, you can't get them out in the streets again. Unless, of course, like UFPJ, you don't want to get them out there to begin with.UFPJ opposes marching on Washington on March 21st against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan out of deference to the Democrats.
The question for the pro-Obama "left" is whether they will follow the logic of their politics and become supporters of Obama's wars and his austerity attacks on American workers in spite of the slap in the face he just gave them or will that slap finally wake up some or any of them. Back in the sixties, many of today's "Progressives for Obama" came of age politically in response to an imperialist war being waged by a liberal Democratic administration, one that actually could still be pressured into cleaning up some of American capitalism's more blatant inequities and excesses. Yet that didn't stop Martin Luther King, Jr. from boldy breaking with LBJ in order to oppose the Vietnam war. King became persona non grata vis-a-vis the pro-Democrat "civil rights" establishment but he stood his ground. Today some of the leaders of UFPJ want to do the same thing to antiwar activists who opposed voting for the pro-war Democrats. So just as Obama has embraced his Republican rivals in "non partisanship," ie, in common defense of American capitalism and, in doing so, repudiated his supporters, today's liberal-left by uncritically embracing Obama, has done the same. As they used to say in the sixties, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Or to be a bit more frank, if the boot fits, they'll lick it!
MN Roy has a very strong analysis of the speech but when someone captures UPFJ so perfectly, we go with that for the excerpt.
In Baghdad, a woman is raped, beaten and scarred with a lit cigarette by armed men who are trying to make her miscarry; in the KRG, a woman's brother shoots her for running away from the forced marriage to a relative ("her cousin"); in Basra, Rand 'Abd al-Qader is killed by her own father for the 'crime' of speaking to a British soldier (the father admits his crime to Iraqi police and is never even charged), Leila Hussein (Rand's mother) leaves her murderous husband and she is shot dead in Barsra in May 2008; Bergerd Hussein Muhammad Amin, an Iraqi journalist, is repeatedly threatened by her estranged husband and the police do nothing, she ends up stabbed repeatedly and dies but murder is 'unknown.'  Those are but two of the stories to be found in  Amnesty International's new report [PDF format warning] entitled "Trapped By Violence: Women In Iraq."  The report notes:
Acts of sexual violence against women in Iraq are severely under-reported, not least because of the victims' fear of reprisal, and reported incidents are not systematically recorded.  However, the majority of women who responded to a survey conducted through networks of Iraqi women organizations and published by Women for Women International in 2008 said that violence against women was rising.  Many women are trapped indoors as they fear the risks of stepping out of their homes.
Across the board, rights for women have gone into retreat in Iraq and those women who speak up and fight for equality often find themselves targeted.  Nothing was done to protect Iraqi women because the US government did not give a damn about them (and apparently still doesn't).  It was more important to push through plans for corporations and that required 'stability' which was easier to 'achieve' by empowering thugs.  Yes, the Afghanistan model was used in Iraq which, prior to the start of the illegal war, had been a secular MidEast country.
Not mentioned in the report is Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi.  She is the fourteen-year-old girl murdered March 12, 2006 by US soldiers in Mahmoudiyah.  While she was gang-raped, her parents Qassim Hamza Raheem and Fakhriya were murdered in the next room as was her five-year-old sister Hadeel Qassim Hamza.  The plan was to blame the War Crimes on 'insurgents' and, for many months, that worked. Since then, some involved have stood before the courts.  James Baker pleaded guilty to his part in the gang-rape, Paul Cortez pleaded guilty to his part in the gang rape, Jesse V. Spielman pleaded guilty to his part in the gang-rape and Bryan L. Howard was found guilty of covering up the crime but not participating in them.  That leaves Steven D. Green who maintains his innocence but whom all others have fingered as the ring-leader.   From the Monday, July 3, 2006 snapshot:
Developments in the Mahmoudiya incident where four Iraqi civilians died, allegedly at the hands of the US forces, in March continue including the age of one of the alleged victims and the arrest of a US soldier. To recap, one of the four was allegedly raped and this morning Ellen Knickmeyer (Washington Post) broke the news that the town felt the "woman" was a fifteen-year-old girl who had complained about the 'interest' some US forces had in her. Sandra Lupien noted on today on KPFA's The Morning Show, the military had put the age of the female at 20 years-old when they announced their investigation last week (Friday). Reuters reports that the mayor of Mahmudiya declared today that the woman "was no more than 16 years old when she was killed along with her parents and young sister". Lupien also noted the arrest of Steven D. Green. Green, is 21 and was with the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army. Friday, in Asheville, North Carolina, he was arrested and charged with both the four deaths as well as the rape. According to the US government press release, if convicted on the charge of murder, "the maximum statutory penalty . . . is death" while, if convicted on the charge of rape, "the maxmium statutory penalty for the rape is life in prison."
Green, who maintains his innocence, has still not been on trial.  Green had already been discharged before the crimes were discovered.  He will stand trial in a civilian court.  The United States District Court, Western District of Kentucky is where United States vs Green, Steven D. is scheduled to take place.  Jury selection is set to begin April 6th with the trial to start at nine a.m. April 27th.  Green is being represented by Scott T. Wendelsdorf, Patrick J. Bouldin and Darren C. Wolff.  United States Attorney David L. Huber notified the court of the government's intent to seek the death penalty July 3, 2007:  "The Government further gives notice that in support of the imposition of the death penalty it intends to rely upon all all the evidence admitted by the Court at the guilt phase of the trial and the offenses of conviction as described in the indictment as they relate to the background and character of the defendant, Steven D. Green, his moral cuplability, and the nature and circumstances of the offenses charged in the indictment."  The defense has introduced several motions including that the death penalty is unconstitutional (August 26, 2008, Judge Thomas B. Russell denied all those motions).  May 15, 2008, the defense notified that they would be arguing insanity and that they would be providing expert witnesses on that defense during the hearing. 
In other Iraq War Crimes news, Josh White (Washington Post) reports Santos A. Cardona is dead.  It does not appear to be a great loss. Caronda was among the War Criminals responsible at Abu Ghraib.  As White notes, "Cardona and his tan Belgian Malinois, Duco, were shown in photographs of detainee abuse that surfaced publicly in 2004.  The most notable image showed Duco growling at a cowering, naked detainee."  During his June 2006 trial, his attroney, Kristen M. Mayer, proved she could lie and spin better than anyone as she attempted to insist that all he Cardona was guilty of was allowing his dog to bark (and "get too close").  She insisted that Cardona did not participate in interrogations at Abu Ghraib and, the military jury not willing to do their duty, went along and pretended it was then logical for her to introduce memos on interrogation policies to argue that Cardona wasn't responsible for his actions, higher ups were.  Repeating, the case she presented was (a) it wasn't abuse, (b) it did not take place in an interrogation and (c) even if it did, nah-nah-nah, look at these memos.  In White's article, we learn Cardona was allegedly 'haunted.'  By his War Crimes?  No, by the world knowing.  He wanted to get back to Iraq and prove he was a good . . . what?  Not citizen.  He wanted back on the buddy patrol.  When his plans to go to Iraq were demolished by public outrage and when his conviction prevented him from re-enlisting, Cardona became a mercenary in Afghanistan where the man found guilty of abusing and terrorizing Iraqi prisoners was allowed to roam around with a dog.  His concern was never over the Iraqis or over justice.  He wanted to prove he was still one of the buddies.  And he died over there.  Oh well.  He wasn't ordered to go and those who profit off wars are generally seen as lower than low by most in any society.  If he wanted to make right what he'd done (which may or may not have been possible -- truly only the Iraqi prisoners he tormented could offer redemption to him), he could have publicly named the higher ups.  But that would have kicked him out of the buddy system.  It was so much easier to do nothing, to make no efforts at redemption and just whine that those higher up never got punished.  Boo-hoo.  That doesn't mean you were innocent and, in fact, you were found guilty.  Cardona was a War Criminal -- convicted War Criminal.  That's reality.  The fact that he was allowed to remain in the military until his service contract expired says a great deal about how little oversight and accountability there is.  The fact that K-9 Detection Services would hire him to work with a dog in another war zone says a great deal about their hiring practices and the kind of 'winners' they'll employ. 
But let's return to Kristen M. Mayer.  Let's assume she's not a liar -- for a moment anyway -- and that she was serious about the fact that the Iraqi prisoners Cardona (and his dog) came into contact with were not being interrogated.  Why were they naked?  Why was a dog able to get into, in the most famous photo, one man's face.  Why was the man naked and crouching on the ground?  Can you imagine the outrage in the US if photos of dogs snarling at prisoners in prison were circulated?  (Granted, the biggest concern would most likely come from the animal lobbies, but still, there would be outrage on the part of those who care about human rights and those who work on prison issues.)  There was nothing 'normal' about what Cardona was taking part in.  He chose to go along with it, not out of fear, but because he wanted to be one with the buddies.  And, again, we're assuming Mayer's not a liar.  That really was her summation, whether she grasped it or not.  He's dead.  The Iraqis he terrorized who are still alive live with the nightmares.  No one really needs to shed a tear over the death of a War Criminal.
Staying with prisoners, February 23rd Brig Gen David Quantock briefed the press (mainly Iraqi press) about the prison situation in Iraq and admitted that at one point, the US was holding 900 Iraqi juveniles prisoner.  Quantock announced the US was only holding 38 juveniles currently. As of Feb 23rd the US military was holding 140 Third-Country Nationals (non-Iraqis) prisoner in Iraq.  Four prisoners (captured in Afghanistan), on the orders of "the minister of defense and the Government of Iraq" (that Quantock speaking) were transferred from Guantanamo to Iraq.  (Did you know the US government took orders from Iraq?) And the Quantock appeared to want to blur a point regarding Afghanistan and Guantanamo.  He wanted to argue -- and run it together -- that no prisoners captured in Iraq were transferred to Guantanamo and running it together imply that of Afghanistan as well.  "We have not transferred any detainees from Iraq to Guantanamo."   Three days after, Feb. 26, Defense Minister John Hutton would declare the following to the UK House of Commons:
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.  
Quantock also wanted to take the Iraqi press to task during the press briefing as he whined about how they said the US released prisoners that they didn't have evidence against.  They did so! He whined that, anyway.  But they didn't think it was evidence that would stand up in court, he pouted.  In other words, you had no credible evidence against the thousands of prisoners ("detainees") that have been released since the start of this year.  He expects all prisoners to be transferred out (to somewhere) of US custody by the start of 2010.  The prison in Taji, an Iraqi prison, is costing the US tax payers $80 million dollars so far, according to Quantock ("So we've spent about $80 million to stand up that facility and then we're going to give it to the Government of Iraq.")  Despite the fact that he declared this was being built still, the Iraqi press pointed out that the prison was indeed open and that the US was operating it.  Yes, Quantaock agreed, cornered, the prison is open but it could hold 5,000 prisoners and the US is only holding "180 in there right now."  And that's just, he said" to put some detainees in there just to test our procedures."  Why are you testing US procedures in an Iraqi prison when you claim you are in the process of turning all prisoners over to the Iraqi government and will have done so by the start of the next year?  What procedures do you need to test as you 'go out of business?'
It was a very interesting press conference and we could go on and on with it.  It's a shame US reporters stationed in Iraq didn't feel it warranted coverage.  But, hey, Matthew Schofield (McClatchy Newspapers) can tell us Shi'ites can take a pilgrimage to Samarra now.  Well, yea!  Let's just set aside all the issues of Iraqi prisoners.  (And note that the New York Times never covered John Hutton's statements.  Guess that would interfere with all that feel-good Hopium in the air.)
In the US, James Rainey (Los Angeles Times) covers Thomas E. Ricks new book The Gamble and notes the broadcast networks running from Iraq with 2008 offering 1/10 the coverage of Iraq on the evening news that could be found the year prior and the "less than a dozen stories," ABC, CBS and NBC have done on Iraq so far this year.  Turning to public broadcasting. NOW on PBS examines a murder from 2005 this week, David Brancaccio interviews Danile Junge who made the documentary They Killed Sister Dorothy about the murder of Catholic nun Dorothy STang in the Amazon.  On Washington Week, which also begins airing Friday on many PBS stations, Gwen sits down with David Wessel (Wall St. Journal), James Barnes (National Journal) and Karen Tumulty (Time magazine) -- the latter of whom is working on her Bette Davis "stars" speech from Now Voyager in an attempt to incorporate into the sham discussions on health care that Barack is leading currently. "Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon, we have the stars." Moving over to broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, on 60 Minutes:

Bank Failure
Scott Pelley has an exclusive look as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation takes control of a failed bank.
Lesley Stahl reports on flaws in eyewitness testimony that are at the heart of the DNA exonerations of falsely convicted people like Ronald Cotton, who has forgiven his accuser, Jennifer Thompson. (This is a double-length segment.) | Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, March 8, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Guess who, don't sue?  This member of Congress has dined out on a tale of woe for years which, it turns out, isn't in fact reality.  More importantly, a ____ _____ informed the Congressional Dem that the story appeared to be a falsehood last year; however, that hasn't stopped the Barack Cheerleader from continuing to repeat it and from using it as their entire raison d'etre.  Currently, the moldly lie is being picked up in local press but if and when it transfers to the national stage, will any reporters sleuth around and ask a few questions?  For starters they might consider safety practices and they might also consider billing and payment.  After that, they might try looking into the background of those who supposedly victimized the liar.  The background of those people is not one that jibes with the story being told -- in fact, their background suggest something very, very different. Questions about safety, payment and billing go to why problems were experienced and not the fairytale like 'explanations' the Congress member continues to give.  Now being embellished with the addition of a phone call!  (At that point, the person is no longer repeating a lie, the person is actively engaging in LYING.)  Warning, Barack Cheerleaders, I am not in the mood for your s**t.  I'll out you on anything and everything and the person we're discussing faces re-election next year.  This little scandal could give the seat away.