Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, January 20, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq Inquiry continues in London with the false 45 minute claim by Tony Blair excused as "local colour," in the US the Fort Hood shooting gets a Congressional hearing, the barring of candidates continues in Iraq, and more.
In DC today, the House Armed Services Committee heard from the former Secretary of the Army Togo West and retired Navy Admiral Vern Clark about the November 5, 2009 Fort Hood shootings. Committee Chair Ike Skelton noted 13 people dead (Togo West explained 12 members of the military, 1 civilian) and 43 wounded in the shooting.
Committee Chair Ike Skelton: I'm troubled by the fact that it would appear that some of the circumstances that led to the shooting were the result of military officers not following existing policies and procedures. Specifically, there are numerous stories in the press  -- NPR, AP, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News and others -- that the alleged shooter's raters and senior raters failed to document negative information in his official record. We have questions.  Why did it happen? Could it have been prevented? Was the response adequate?  More importantly, we all share the same intent to ensure that everything possible is done to make sure that this does not happen again.
West and Clark's opening statement was read into the record [PDF format warning, click here] explaining how they were tasked by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to review the "policies, procedures and practices" leading up to the Fort Hood shooting.  Following the reading of the statement, West and Clark then they hit some of the highlights of their report.  West noted that details regarding the shooter are in a restricted annex available to members of the committee.  Skelton had already noted that, due to ongoing prosecution issues, they would not be focusing on the shooter or alleged shooter. West explained that the military intelligence aspects -- did they fail? -- as well as the criminal aspects and the FBI review of sharing information with the military were segments West and Clark did not look into because (a) they were asked not to and (b) explorations of those three areas were already taking place.

Sec Togo West: With respect to the alleged perpetrator, you will note that we state openly in Chapter One [of the report] that several military officers did not apply Army policies to the alleged perpetrator. We also recommended that that finding and similar findings that are reflected in the annex be referred by the Secretary of the Defense to the Secretary of the Army for review as to responsibility, acountability and such other action as he shall deem appropriate. He [Gates] has done so. The Army has that referral, the review is underway now. Before I turn this over to Adm Clark, to fill in some details with respect to the review of the report that you have, three observations I think are important to-to point out. First, what we learned is that there is never enough preparation, there is never too much preparation. Authorities at Fort Hood had already anticipated a mass casualty event as reflected in their emergency response plans.  And their response on that day showed their preparation. Two minutes and forty-seven seconds after the 911 call was received, first responders were on the scene of the shooting. And by "first responders," I refer specifically to members of the Fort Hood security team. A minute and a half after their arrival, the assailant was incapacitated. Two minutes and fifty seconds later, two ambulances and an Incident Command Vehicle from the post hospital arrived and began to provide life saving health care. With that response, lives were saved. And yet thirteen people died. Scores more were wounded. We can prepare better. We must plan with greater attention. And we must make the effort to look around the corners of our future and anticipate the next potential event in order to deflect it.  Secondly, we need to pay attention to today's hazards. The fact is that we need to understand the forces that cause an individual to radicalize, to commit violent acts and, thereby, to make us vulnerable from within. And, thirdly, there is much in this report that is about violence -- violence by a service member against his or her colleagues. The effort is to detect the indicators that one might commit acts of violence, to catalogue them, to make them available to the persons who need to know what are the indicators -- and where have the indicators been noted -- and then prepare ourselves to act when that evidence is before us to make it available to our commanders so that they can act and to be clear about their authority. One further note, as has been pointed out, we were asked to do this review within 45 days. The Secretary clearly had in mind that there would be follow-on reviews of what we would come up with. For that reason, although we have cast our net widely, there were also boundaries simply in terms of what the 129 or so souls who were committed to our leadership could accomplish and thus you will find that there is space left for the follow on reviews. Often our recommendations are couched on term of the need to pay closer attention and to closer review that.
[. . .]
Adm Vern Clark: First, let me just talk briefly about force protection.  The principle message is this: There are many policies, dozens of policies, in the Defense  Dept about force protection. We built lots of barriers since 9-11. That said, existing policies are not optimized for the internal threat and the threat that we saw witnessed at the Fort Hood incident was evolving inside the barriers. Second, let's talk about employees who can be a threat in this sort of circumstance.  It's a difficult challenge. The reality is that there is insufficient knowledge and guidance to identify individuals. Guidance involving workplace violence and the potential for self-radicalization or radicalization in general, as Secretary West indicated, it's inefficient. And the key here is that we focus on violence of any kind. What we found was a lack of clarity for comprehensive indicators which then limited commanders or supervisors ability to then recognize these potential threats.  And so it doesn't matter if we're looking at somebody who might be inclined to hurt themselves. And, by the way, the Secretary of Defense had that specifically in our terms of reference -- incidents of suicide. Or criminal and gang behavior or somebody advocating supremist activity and doctrine or family violence or the evolving threats like radicalization. Identifying the key indicators is critical to focusing the force on the threat. So our focus was on violence that comes from any kind of behavior. But what we found especially was that policies on the internal threat are inadequate. Prohibited behaviors and actions need to be addressed. And our report says specifically that such guidance exists but it's incomplete for the day in which we live.
He continues with "remove the walls" over and over about intelligence sharing (over and over) to the point that he might as well have been singing the "tear down the walls" refrain in Jefferson Airplane's "We Can Be Together" (written by Paul Kanter, first appears on Volunteers).
Tear down the walls
Tear down the walls
Come on now together
Get it on together
Everybody together
We should be together
We should be together my friends
We can be together
We will be
We must begin here and now
A new continent of earth and fire
Come on now getting higher and higher
Tear down the walls
Only Clark was far less melodic and much more scary.  The committee never asked him to define the wall tearing he wanted and "walls" are usually erected for a reason.  Rush to dismantle "walls" can lead to, for example, the current economic crisis in the US (the 'barriers' of regulation were dismantled).  There is a difference between "information sharing" and targeting and/or spying.  That's especially true when it comes to military intelligence. We'll note this exchange from the hearing.
Chair Ike Skelton: It appears to me that there were two disconnects that lead to a major question.  Disconnect number one is the actual performance of the alleged shooter on the one hand and the OER [Officer Evalution Report] and academic evaluation.  The second disconnect would be one of intelligence type -- whether that reached the right superiors or not.  Which leads to the bottom line question: Was a great deal overlooked because this was a medical person in a speciality in which there was a shortage? Mr. Secretary?
Sec Togo West: [Long pause] Mr. Chairman, I paused just for a minute because I'm trying to reflect on how much my answer leads me into a discussion of an area we've covered in the annex rather than in the report.
Chair Ike Skelton: Do your best.

Sec Togo West: But I -- thanks for the encouragement. But I would think that we could say in general as to the way uh uh officers are evaluated, especially medical officers, and that the way that is reported that what we have concluded and have said to the Secretary of Defense is this: First, the disconnect you noted is correct. That's what we mean when we say that the policies were not applied. That things witnessed were not always reported where they need to be reported and that in fact there are contradictory indications.  And with respect to the Secretary, and we recommended to the Secretary of Defense that he take some public steps about this, that we had to say to the force -- or that he had to say to the force -- the Department has to say to the force, "Evaluations make a difference and we can't do the job of leading or protecting against threats if honest evaluations are not done by those who have the duty, the information and the authority to do so."  
Chair Ike Skelton: Adm?
Adm Vern Clark: A major piece of this, Mr. Chairman, is what is part of the record.  And our report -- we don't tell the Secretary of Defense what parts to make -- what should go into the record -- we say -- he asks us for gaps and weaknesses and so we said look if an individaul track history doesn't stay with him that leaves you open to potential weaknesses and gaps. So there are certain things that are required by regulation that cannot move from station to station with the individaul. That's something that needs to be looked at.  With regard to the issue of performance appraisal, we all know that performance appraisal is a challenge in any environment. That said, we used specific terms to say things that we wanted to conote. We didn't just use the term "leadership," we used the term "officership." If you look on page six and seven of our report, we say specifically what we think happened here. We believe that some of the signs were clearly missed or they were ignored. I can't tell you which. And I can't go further than that because of the nature of the restrictions -- the information that's in the restricted annex. But there's no doubt in my mind or Secretary West's mind that there were issues here.
US House Rep Vic Snyder objected to the annex noting it confused the issue and that "it would be one thing if we had out there the criminal case file [. . .] But, in fact, what you all are conducting is an administrative proceeding based on the records that are in the military in order to problem solve. And it's not clear to me why the American people are not entitled to see -- because it's part of the problem solving process -- these undredacted reviews -- career reviews or academic reviews or college transcripts or whatever's in that record as part of an administrative proceeding. You're not putting those things out there."  Snyder also wanted to know when would be the right time for such a discussion?  After the trial?  After an appeal process?  "I don't know what the right time's going to be for the American people [. . .] to have a specific discussion about this specific case," he stated.  West replied that the annex contains "officer efficiency reports and the like. Those are specifically protected. Secondly, the overall concern that what's contained in there will have an effect on the military justice proceedings." On the first aspect, notice that it's tear down the wall to let hidden spying take place (that is what Clark was advocating) but it's hide and hide again when it applies to what the American people can and cannot have access to.
Kat plans to offer a few thoughts on today's hearing tonight (including on US House Rep Loretta Sanchez) so be sure to check her site. 
In Iraq, a bombing has resulted in numerous people being wounded. Xinhua reports a Mosul suicide car bombing claimed the life of the driver and left thirty people injured Al Jazeera reports that the bombing targeted an Iraqi military base and, citing police, states the injured are "18 soldiers, five police officers and 10 civilians".  Reuters notes the injured has climbed to 45.  In other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Diyala Province motorcycle bombing which claimed 1 life and left four people wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer.
Reuters notes a Mosul attack in which 1 police officer was shot dead in a cafe while, in Baghdad, a robbery at a jewelry store resulted in the death fo the owner and 1 other person and was followed by Iraqi police and the robbers engaging in a gunfight in which 1 police officer was shot dead and 7 people were injured (two were assailants, the remainder civilians).
Today the Washington Post editorial board offers "Obama administration must intervene in Iraqi election crisis" on the banning of political rivals in Iraq with the claimes of "Ba'athist!":
There's not much clarity about who is behind the nasty maneuver -- but one protagonist appears to be Ahmed Chalabi, the notorious former exile leader and master of political manipulation. Now regarded as an Iranian agent by most U.S. officials, Mr. Chalabi, along with his associates, served Tehran's interests as well as his own by banning the Sunni leaders. Several of those blacklisted had recently joined cross-sectarian secular alliances that are challenging the Shiite coalition of which Mr. Chalabi is a part, as well as the list headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Over the weekend, Mr. Maliki appeared to endorse the disqualifications -- a step that would nullify his previous support for progressive electoral reforms.                            
Surprised by the sudden decision, U.S. and U.N. officials have been trying to moderate it. Vice President Biden, who used his influence to good effect during previous disputes over the elections, has been working the phones again.
If the US had a real ambassador to Iraq (and not Chris Hill), maybe all these 'last minute' surprises wouldn't continue to pop up?  Why is it that the US is repeatedly caught unaware over and over despite having Hill there supposedly to guide diplomatic relations?
Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) notes "U.S. diplomacy has shifted into high gear" (that would be Biden) and that there are now "515 barred candidates -- the number keeps growing".  Rahma al-Salim (Asharq Alawsat) reports: "The office of Iraqi parliamentary speaker, Ayad al-Samarrai informed Asharq Al-Awsat that US Vice President Joe Biden has called for the Debathification process to be postponed until after the elections on the condition that the electoral candidates in question prove that they are no longer affiliated to the outlawed party. Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, hinted that his country would not support the elections if al-Mutlaq is not allowed to stand for election." And al-Salim notes that Nouri's spokesperson is stating that US attempts "will not achieve anything."
At An Arab Woman Blues, Layla Anwar offers her take including the following:
The news from Iraq where the Shiites from Iran are doing everything possible to ensure that only they present themselves to the forthcoming elections, by banning all secular and non Shiites representation i.e Sunnis.         

Which of course lead me to remember the ongoing genocide against Arab Sunnis in Iraq, the ongoing genocide led by Iran and its Shia supporters, a genocide within the grander American genocide on the Iraqi people.           

And of course that lead me to question for the 100th time the role of the filthy, despicable, depraved, perfidious Iraqis who supported and still support either the American or Iranian occupation of Iraq or both...           

These filthy, rotten to the core, dishonorable, undignified traitors on CIA/Pentagon payrolls and on Iran's -- who still 7 years on, despite the holocaust, despite the destruction, despite the exile, despite the mass terror inflicted upon us by both the Americans and their Iranian counterparts, still manage to praise, justify, rationalize, propagandize, glorify either the US or Iran.               

These filthy, depraved, complicit criminals calling themselves Iraqis, who made their money and fame from Iraqi blood, they live inside Iraq and outside of Iraq, they are men and women, young and old ; bloggers, journalists, so-called activists, so-called feminists, some are running NGOs, other are "analysts and experts", spokespersons...some of them are hiding in their spider holes, their rat holes in America, Europe, and elsewhere spewing more lies and more garbage, covering up the crimes, and some come to the limelight and appear in the media, having pocketed good sums of money from the murderers of Iraq, their masters. And they dare speak in the name of Iraq and Iraqis !   
At Reuters, Suadad al-Salhy offers that the banned candidates are more often Shi'ite than Sunni.  The tongue stuck out after 'reporting' that appears implied.  Going far deeper than that, Reidar Visser examines the banned list and finds
The main problem with the de-Baathification measures, then, refers not so much to systematic and overt sectarianism or partisanship as such as to despotism more generally, albeit clearly with the ulterior goal of perpetuating a sectarian political atmosphere. The basic problem here is the attempt by the accountability and justice board to portray its decisions as "legal" and "constitutional" when they clearly are not – and the failure of the rest of the "democratic" system in the new Iraq to offer any meaningful resistance. Previous developments have shown that the accountability and justice board is an anachronism that lacks a clear legal basis after the passage of the accountability and justice law in 2008, that the formation of a seven-judge appeals court (to which these decisions may be appealed within three days) remedies this situation only in a partial way, that the Iraqi elections commission seems to be in league with the accountability and justice board in this matter, and that even if one accepts the dubious existence of the current de-Baathification board, its application of the relevant laws appears to be both partisan and selective in the extreme.               
In sum, rather than being an attempt at a complete exclusion or elimination of political enemies, these de-Baathification measures seem aimed at intimidating and terrorising, with the overarching motive of keeping sectarian issues on the agenda. Any attempt at remedying the situation must keep this aspect in mind: What is at stake here is not a question of "Sunni participation" versus a "Sunni boycott"; rather this is about the very fundamentals of the post-2003 system of government in Iraq and the importance of offering hope to those Iraqis who wish to get rid of the narrow sectarian categories altogether. Hence, even if the US should miraculously succeed in reversing or postponing the de-Baathification moves, the ball will simply be kicked further down the road: The so-called independent elections commission (IHEC) which will oversee the elections is in practice owned by the same Shiite Islamist parties that control the accountability and justice board, and that authored the decision to exclude 511 candidates with reference to de-Baathification and with support from Iran. To really make a difference, what is needed today is some kind of appeals institution that does not mechanically replicate the structures of power in Iraq that have emerged since 2003 on an ethno-sectarian basis and their underlying sectarian logic, which after all is what the accountability and justice board is fighting so hard to preserve. An internationalised complaints commission similar to the one used in Afghanistan could be one possible option. On the whole, it is of course a good sign that US policy-makers today seem concerned about the gravity of the situation, but if they are really serious about solving it then they should realise that none of their current friends in Baghdad are capable of doing so in a truly sustainable fashion.
Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports that Iraq's Presidency Council is supposed to take up the issue: "The initiative is under process waiting for the return of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi, the source said."
Iraq remains the world's largest refugee crisis -- though no one's done a telethon for it -- not KPFA or MTV or George Clooney or any of the big wastes of time.  But Iraqi refugees -- external and internal -- suffer.  External refugees are the subject of a back and forth between the governments of Syria and Iraq.  AFP quotes Fayssal Mekdad, Deputy Foreign Minister of Syria, "Ever since the Iraqi refugees began arriving in Syria in 2003, the Iraqi government, despite having the means, only gave 15 million dollars to help its citizens in Syria. This is a small sum in comparison with the number of Iraqi refugees who number more than 1.5 million in Syria, and with the enormous capacity of the Iraqi government." KUNA quotes Abdulsamad Sultan, Iraq's Minister of Displacement and Migration, responding that Syria's assertions are "exaggerated."  Iraq has done very, very little financially in terms of aiding neighboring and/or bordering countries which have taken in refugees.
In London, the Iraq Inquiry continues.  Before getting to today's two witnesses, we'll note events outside the Inquiry.  The Liberal Democratic Party today issued the following:

"William Hague's comments are welcom," said the Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary. 
Responding to William Hauge's comments that it is only right and proper that all those who played a role in taking the country to war give evidence before the general election', Edward Davey said:
"William Hauge's comments are welcome. As a key backer of the drive to war in Iraq, we look forward to him volunteering to appear before the Inquiry, along with Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory leader at the time. 
"The huge role played by the Conservatives in backing Labour's disastrous and illegal war deserves to be examined."
Also today on appearances before the Iraq Inquiry, it emerged current Prime Minister Gordon Brown might appear before the elections.  Philip Webster (Times of London) reports, "Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions he told the Commons that he had written to Sir John Chilcot saying that he was happy to give evidence at any time." The witnesses today were  Mark Lyall-Grant (Director General Political, FCO, 2007 - 2009), David Omand (Permanent Secretary Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator, 2002 - 2005) (link goes to transcript and video option).  In England, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair sold the illegal war on the claim that Iraq had WMD and could attack England within 45 minutes. Not true.  (And Blair should have known that ahead of time because it was reported to his underlings before the outbreak of the illegal war.  When he appears, January 29th, he may be asked about that.)  Omand is getting a lot of attention from the press (Lyall-Grant none really) and I'm noting this section that I found telling:
David Omand: I would interpret that as meaning people saying there isn't enough intelligence in substance, but this isn't going to look very convincing if we are not allowed to show more of it. That's my personal expression -- explanation of why, as it were, people fell on the 45 minutes. At least that was something the Secret Service would allow to be used. With hindsight, one can see that adding a bit of local colour like that is asking for trouble. But we didn't really spot that at the time.
Local colour?  I find those statements news worthy (and outrageous) but those I depend on for guidance on this issue downplay it.  I think it's news.  Everyone else feels this passage is the big news regarding the 45 minute claim:
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Just to continue on these, again, sort of favoured topic these days, the 45 minutes, were you aware of the background to that going into the assessment? Did you take much notice of that as a feature of the presentation?
David Omad: Not as a feature of presentation. It was a piece of intelligence that was circulated quite late in the day, as you know, round the JIC and found its way into the JIC's own assessment at quite a late stage.  I think it is worth again stepping back slightly and just recalling that the idea of producing a detailed intelligence assessment for public consumption was not hugely welcomed by the intelligence community, certainly not by me, partly on precedential grounds, although it had sort of been done once before, but there is a natural queasiness on the part of anyone who has worked in the intelligence business at putting anything into the public domain, and one of the problems we foresaw, and, indeed, to some extent did occur, was that the agencies were quite happy for generalized statements to be made, but were not very happy about any of the detail of the reporting being used. So the risk was we would end up with a document which was simply a series of assertions.
From October 2002 the JIC was warning that al-Qaida would use an invasion as a justification for terrorist attacks, an argument that would attract widespread support among Muslims. The JIC also warned that the terrorist network might establish sleeper cells in Iraq, Omand said.                               
By October 2004, the JIC warned that up to 50 people from the UK had "attempted to get to Iraq to join jihadist factions". Asked whether the deteriorating security situation in Iraq had a direct impact on jihadist activity in Britain, Omand, who was a JIC member, replied: "Yes".                                          
He said Britain should have stepped back in January 2003 when UN weapons inspectors reported that they found no evidence in Iraq of a continuing WMD programmes. The JIC did not look again at the intelligence claims, and was not asked to do so by ministers. "We assumed an invasion was inevitable," said Omand.
Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger notes that "Omand joined Geoff Hoon in accusing Brown's Treasury for keeping his office on a tight leash -- it was hard enough getting the latest version of Microsoft Office, let alone enough of the right sort of staff."
Returning to the US.  An electoral upset took place yesterday.  Caro of MakeThemAccountable has a roundup of reports on the Massachusetts upset last night. Caro makes time today for the important topic as well -- Barack's attempts to cut Social Security benefits and raise the age of retirement.  Kat noted this last night and we mentioned it in Third's  "Editorial: The Haiti Distraction."  Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley as both attempted to win the Senate seat Ted Kennedy recently vacated.  Betty observed of the results, "The reality is there for all the world to see: The media created sensation peaked in January 2009 and it's been all downhill since then. Say hello to Pet Rocks on your way out the door, Barry. Say hello to Troll Dolls and Cabbage Patch Kids, to Rubics cubes and earth shoes. You're the hula-hoop no one wants anymore." Stan offered, "Martha Coakley was a great primary candidate. Scott Brown was a better candidate for the general and a lot of that had to do with Coakley become Barry's best bud after she won the nomination. He's becoming toxic."  Ann commented on the comedic act of 'analyst' Elyse Cherry and referred people to Trina who explained just how Elyse was long-term kissy with Deval and not an independent analyst or really much of anything of worth or value.  Mike (who voted for Brown) reflected last night:
We're also pissed off that Dems aren't keeping any damn promises. Why the hell are we still in Iraq?                  

I don't want to help Barack because Barack's not helping the country. Mr. Vanity's all about himself. (Listen to any speech.) Fine and dandy. But if Dems want to stop the losses, get out of Iraq and start doing real work. We're sick of this s**t. Yeah the Danny Schechters are real dumb asses and lap it up when the White House attacks Fox News (and they stay silent when Robert Gibbs attacks Helen Thomas) but the rest of us, those of us on the left who are adults? We're damn sick of it and sick of all you can do while you don't keep your promises.                     

And, yes, it was about health 'reform.' We've already got the corrupt system Barry's trying to pass off as universal health care (it's not and a lot of lefty liars don't have the guts to tell you the truth on that, do they?
Lance Selfa notes those hypocrites here) but we saw the arrogance. We saw the polls where Americans weren't buying what was being sold (some because they don't want any change, some because they know this crap being proposed is crap) and we saw a Congress and a White House ignore the people. Brown was one way to send a message and to hold the White House in check.
And Lance Selfa has a column today at US Socialist Worker which Mike's grandfather (Trina's father) proudly points to because Selfa has some similar observations and Mike's grandfather says that's proof that he's passed on "a strong Socialist outlook to Mike."  Ruth observed, "No disrespect meant to Scott Brown but it is a bit sad for me that Martha Coakley lost. That said, as someone who has followed the race closely for sometime, it is obvious that Ms. Coakley's primary campaign was on the right track and her general campaign was misguided. I do not blame her for that, I blame the people running her campaign. Mike wrote about the campaign yesterday. From speaking to his family over the last weeks, I would argue that Mr. Brown did not just pick up independents (as conventional wisdom says he did), I would argue he also picked up some Democrats (in Mike's family, he picked up Democrats and Socialists)."  Cedric's "Bad news served over Kool-Aid"  and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BARRY O SOBS IN HIS KOOL-AID!"  joint-humor post offers a look at White House reaction.  Wally filled in for Rebecca last night (and is filling in for her tonight), Marcia tackled numerous topics and Elaine took on KPFA's decision to sponsor the PDA Hour -- where so-called "Progressive" Democrats (of America) get an hour of air time each week to pretend that they stand for something and actually have a spine.
On the Coakley-Brown match up, Ruth Conniff (The Progressive) shows real strength calling out a dual citizen (does he vote in both countries' elections) insisting Coakley lost because the left is just too hard on St. Barack. At the same outlet, Matthew Rothschild backslides as he once again ignores reality to play hero worship. If only, Matt offers, Barack would fire Rahm Emanuel.  I've known Rahm for years and I think he's funny and delightful as a person.  That said, if I ever hired Rahm to work for me -- I never would and for the following reason -- I would know it was for life or until Rahm wanted to leave.  You do not fire Rahm unless you want to burn down the house as well.  That's reality.  If Barack wanted to, he couldn't fire Rahm without bringing on a whole lot of trouble (far more trouble than Barack and Michelle experienced trying to mingle on Martha's Vineyard this summer -- no, it did not work out well for them there).  Now that's why it's not feasible to fire Rahm.  But let's quickly deal with Barack wanting to fire Rahm.  Why?  He does Barack's bidding.  Barack wanted him in that role for that reason.  Barack gets to come off like a saint and a princess.  And while it's not surprising the public buys that, it's distressing that Matt Rothschild does.  Matt notes that Rahm is DLC.  Matt, so is Barack. That's long been established.  Not only has that long been established, Barack publicly identified himself as a "New Democrat" early last year.  The New York Times reported it, did you miss it?  "New Democrat" is the term the DLC (Simon Rosenberg and all the centrists) love to use because the DLC 'brand' had the worst political odor excepting only "neoconservative."  Barack is DLC.  He's always been DLC.  That's why he governs the way he does.  It's not a mystery.  It's right there in plain sight. I'm blanking on the Times artilce but Jonathan Martin and Carol E. Lee also reported it for Politico:
"I am a New Democrat," he told the New Democrat Coalition, according to two sources at the White House session.
The group is comprised of centrist Democratic members of the House, who support free trade and a muscular foreign policy but are more moderate than the conservative Blue Dog Coalition.
Obama made his comment in discussing his budget priorities and broader goals, also calling himself a "pro-growth Democrat" during the course of conversation.
That's March 10, 2009.  Know who you support before you vote for them.  And please, please, know who they are after they're in office.  And, as Rebecca has long exposed, the New Democrats?  Worst haircuts in all US political circles.  That includes Barack.  Worst.  Cheap. Tacky.  Male or female, do something with that hair.