Thursday, August 26, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, the spinning continues, Robert Gates lets some 'withdrawal' talk slip, Lt Col Victor Fehrenbach takes on the Air Force, Big Oil gets richer, and more.
Today Teri Weaver (Stars and Stripes) quotes
US Maj Gen Terry Wolff stating, "The ministries are still operating. It's not like they're shut down." What the heck is he talking about? He's minimizing the political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 5 days.
And the ministries are not 'still operating.' There's no Minister of Electricity and if any Ministry in Iraq needs leadership, it would be the Ministery of Electricity. Iraq is plauged with blackouts, has electricity in most areas for only a few hours each day. There is no Minister of Electricity. He tendered his resignation months ago. Nouri al-Maliki has one of his cronies acting as the minister but the Constitution is very clear that ministers are approved by Parliament and Parliament's never approved this 'acting' minister who is also the Minister of Oil. Erdal Safak (Sabah) explains, "The Iraqis have access to electricity for only three or four hours a day and they do not have access to [potable] water. Iraqi politicians gather every day and negotiate for hours and hours. Although five months have passed since the elections in Iraq, the chances that a government will form are bleak. President Obama is so desperate that he sent a top secret letter to Shiite leader Ali al-Sistani, encouraging him to step in and use his influence."
What a stupid thing to say, "The ministries are still operating. It's not like they're shut down." The elections were supposed to take place in 2009. Everyone's ignoring the fact that Nouri is operating in some quasi-legal territory when he pretends to be Prime Minister. His term expired. Can you imagine the outcry if, in the US, Bully Boy Bush had attempted to occupy the White House through May 2009?
If oil is all that matters, Maj Gen Terry Wolf, then you are indeed sitting pretty. Jung Seung-hyun (JoongAng Daily) reports on the announcement by the Korea National Oil Corporation, "After 10 months of work drilling 3,847 meters (12,621.4 feet) into the earth from October 2009 to August this year, the KNOC estimated a maximum 970 barrels of crude oil and 3 million cubic meters of natural gas could be produced at the site every day. The average daily production expectancy for crude oil was placed at 200 barrels per day." Meanwhile London South East reports, "Shares in Gulf Keystone Petroleum rise as much as 9 percent touch a year high after the oil explorer says tests at its Shaikan-1 well in Iraq's Kurdistan show a ten-fold increase in flow rates, raising expectations for future production rates." AMEinfo explains, "Baker Hughes announced it has signed a three-year strategic alliance with Iraq's South Oil Company (SOC) to provide technical services to SOC's wireline logging department in Burj Esya, Basra south Iraq. Under the terms of the technical services agreement (TSA), Baker Hughes will supply wireline technologies to SOC and other Iraqi oil and gas producers as well as help develop local Iraqi wireline logging capabilities." Dow Jones notes that the Kirkuk pipeline that was carrying oil from Kirkuk to Turkey and was bombed earlier this week is 'back in business' having "resumed the pumping at 11 p.m. local time (2000 GMT) on Wednesday." And Al Bawaba notes:
The exploration of Iraq's rich oil and gas fields will be under the spotlight during a top meeting of oil executives and Iraqi energy regulators in Istanbul in October as global companies that have won contracts prepare to start the development of various fields.
The programme director of Iraq Future Energy 2010, Claire Pallen, says "with the recent awarding of rights to develop various oil and gas fields in Iraq the world's oil and gas executives now await the formation of the government bodies following the recent general elections as well as the eagerly awaited third licensing round that is scheduled for September. Top representatives from global oil giants as well as lawmakers from Iraq will meet in October to prepare for the road ahead with regards to the short to medium term development of Iraq's oil and gas sector".
Of course, Iraqis can't eat oil and the tag sale on their national assets will ensure that the Iraqi people don't profit from the boomtown. And IRIN notes that over "a tenth of Iraq's 2009-2010 wheat crop has been infected by a killer fungus, according to authorities." But Maj Gen Terry Wolf thinks Iraq's functioning just fine. How Iraq's functioning was addressed today on Morning Edition (NPR -- link has audio and text) when Steve Inskeep discussed the country's current status with Thomas E. Ricks.
Thomas E. Ricks: The problem in Iraq is none of the basic political questions facing the country have been solved, and this is one reason that weve gone so many months now without the formation of an Iraqi government. But the basic questions are: How are these three major groups in Iraq going to get along? How are they going to live together? Are they going to live together? How are you going to share the oil revenue? What's the form of Iraqi government? Will it have a strong central government or be a loose confederation? What's the role of neighboring countries, most especially Iran, which is stepping up its relationship with Iraq right now, even as Uncle Sam tries to step down its relationship?
All these questions have been hanging fire in Iraq for several years, in fact before the surge.
Steve Inskeep: Aren't --
Thomas E. Ricks: All of them have led to violence in the past and all could easily lead to violence again. The only thing changing in the Iraqi security equation right now is Uncle Sam is trying to get out.
Steve Inskeep: Aren't these last few months helpful in some way? Ambassador Hill in his interview suggested that while Iraqis have gone months since this election without forming a government, at least they're talking and maybe making progress.
Thomas E. Ricks: Yeah. It strikes me as whistling past the graveyard. I think what's happening in Iraq is everybody is waiting for Uncle Sam to get out of the way so they can get on with their business. No one wants get in a fight with Uncle Sam again. The American troops know Iraq well, the commanders know how to operate there, and they can smack down anybody who turns violent. But President Obama has said we're not going to get involved in that. And so I think a lot of people in Iraq are simply keeping their powder dry.
Steve Inskeep: Is America really getting out of the way? There still going to be 50,000 troops there, for example.
Thomas E. Ricks: Yeah. And actually, the mission becomes more violent and more dangerous with the passage of time, not less violent. I would much rather be on an American combat infantry patrol than, say, be with an advisor to Iraqi forces. That's a more dangerous position to be in. Also, as you draw down American forces, you withdraw a lot of the forces that make things safe and/or limit the consequences of violence. For example, a medical evacuation of wounded people. Intelligence - these are the type of support functions that get cut because youre trying to bring down the troop numbers but are essential to somebody whos wounded, to getting them treatment quickly and getting them out of the country.
As Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio) tells Gilbert (Johnny Depp), "We're not going anywhere, Gilbert. We're not going anywhere, you know? We're not going anywhere" (What's Eating Gilbert Grape?), Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports:
Iraq will need U.S. military support for up to another decade to defend its borders because the Iraqi army won't be ready to guard the country when American troops leave at the end of 2011, according to U.S. and Iraqi commanders.
Commanders say they are reasonably confident in the Iraqi security forces' ability to keep order while facing insurgents or other internal threats. But when it comes to their capacity to protect against attacks from other nations, it is inconceivable that the Iraqi army will be able to stand alone by the time U.S. troops go home, said Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, commander of the U.S. military training program in Iraq.
Al Jazeera adds:
A top White House advisor meanwhile suggested that the US military presence in Iraq after the main pullout in 2011 could be limited to "dozens" or "hundreds" of troops under the embassy's authority.
"We'll be doing in Iraq what we do in many countries around the world with which we have a security relationship that involves selling American equipment or training their forces, that is establishing some connecting tissue," said Anthony Blinken, national security advisor for vice president Joe Biden.
"When I say small, I'm not talking thousands, I'm talking dozens or maybe hundreds, that's typically how much we would see."
Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) notes
, "On Wednesday, a senior Iraqi military leader, Gen. Babaker Zubari, stated publicly what most Iraqi officials say more privately – that he believed there would need to be a continuing US presence here after 2011. Under current plans to expand Iraq's armed forces, destroyed and dismantled by the US in the war, Iraq will not have the capability to secure its land borders and air space for almost another decade." Bob Higgins offers his take at Veterans Today
. Hugh Sykes (BBC News) offers his take here
(sidebar mid-page). Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports
, "The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has made a sudden visit to senior defence officials a day after the country's most senior soldier declared his forces would not be capable of securing Iraq
's borders until 2020." As the White House and Nouri continue to soft-peddle a US presence/occupation after 2011, Lara Jakes (AP) reports
on what slipped out of the cabinet today:
But within hours, while talking to Pentagon reporters en route to a military ceremony in Tampa, Fla., Defense Secretary Robert Gates left open the door that troops could stay in Iraq as long as Baghdad asks for them. "We have an agreement with the Iraqis that both governments have agreed to that we will be out of Iraq at the end of 2011," Gates said. "If a new government is formed there and they want to talk about beyond 2011, we're obviously open to that discussion." "But that initiative will have to come from the Iraqis," he said.
Joseph A. Kechichian (Gulf News) offers
, "A beaming US Commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, freshly reiterated that US forces will stay as long as the Iraqi government wishes them to, ostensibly to deny foreign powers -- read Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia -- from meddling in the country's internal affairs. Still, it was unclear what that actually meant, especially after President Barack Obama prognosticated that the US has not 'seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq'. While few should expect a White House banner on August 31 to claim 'Mission Accomplished', combat missions will then fall under a new soubriquet: training Iraqis to fight on their own." Meanwhile the US is avoided by Iraqi candidates the way Democrats in tight races avoid Barack Obama. Rahmat al-Salaam (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reports
that Iraqiya's Jamal "Al-Battikh criticized the US role and said 'the United States is the origin of the disease afflicting Iraq, especially as it has helped complicate the situation', adding that 'it wants a candidate acceptable to Iran and a friend to it and this is what it is working for behind the scenes'." Meanwhile Stephen Farrell (New York Times) gauges Iraqi reactions via the media, "This year the Iraqi channel Al Sharqiya has been promoting a satirical comedy, 'Kursi Tamleek.' Roughly translated as 'Holding on to the Chair', it is a sideswipe at Iraq's reluctant-to-depart caretaker government headed by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. A musical number from the show has already become popular and made its way onto YouTube." And an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers shares this at Inside Iraq:
Since the March election, we have been waiting for the new government forming and it looks that we are going to wait for another month or maybe even more. Every day, we hear and read news about new agreements and new negotiations among the political parties but nothing really happens, no progress at all. Today and while I was watching TV at the office, a politicians said during an interview on TV that forming the government might not take place before the new year.
In spite of this long period and although the winning blocs are only four main blocs that represent most of the Iraqi people, they could not reach any kind of agreement about anything and they are still blaming each other for the delay. Each bloc claims that it is the patriotic one and that it is the one that aim to (SERVE THE IRAQI PEOPLE) The painful truth is the following. These blocs which fight now for the privilege of ( SERVING IRAQIS ) are the very same blocs which formed the government in 2005. The very same government that did nothing for Iraqis.
On behalf of the United States Department of State, I wish all Muslims around the world a happy and blessed Ramadan.
Ramadan is a time for self-reflection and sharing. American Muslims make valuable contributions to our country every day and millions will honor this month with acts of service and giving back to their communities.
Along with dozens of our Embassies, I will host an Iftar in Washington, DC, for Muslims and non-Muslims to join together and reflect on our common values, faith and the gifts of the past year. At our Iftar, we will also celebrate dozens of young American Muslims who are helping shape the future of our country with their energy and spirit. These young business and social entrepreneurs, academics, spiritual leaders, and other young Muslims around the world are leading the way to a new era of mutual respect and cooperation among all the citizens of our world.
During this month of peace and renewal, I wish the 1.5 billion Muslims around the world Ramadan Kareem.
In violence being reported today, Reuters notes an attack on a Mosul checkpoint which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier (one more injured), a Baaj car bombing yesterday which injured four people and an attack on a Garma police checkpoint yesterday which claimed the life of 1 police officer and injured five people. "Almost daily attacks on police and traffic police in Baghdad and Anbar Province west of the capital in the past two weeks have killed almost 30 police," Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) observes.
Yesterday Barack Obama had a "national security" meeting on Iraq at the White House and it's telling that whatever outlet you go to (try here, for example, or here), you fail to get a complete listing of who attended the meeting. What did Jackson Browne once say? "I want to know who the men in the shadows are, I want to hear someone asking them why, they can be counted on to tell us who are enemies are but they're never the ones to fight or to die." Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) notes one attendant, NSA James L. Jones, and his recap he offered on CNN (blather) as well as his remarks on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Read the following that he stated on CNN and see if you don't find it offensive: "The standard for service in the armed forces of the United States ought to be based on good order and discipline. And we found ways to modify eligibility to serve in the armed forces for other groups, you know, whether it was based on race or religion or whatever." Eligibility was 'modified'? As if "race or religion or whatever" couldn't meet the benchmark? As though the problem wasn't the racism, wasn't the religious bias? There was never any reason that, for example, an African-American male couldn't serve except for racism. And there's no reason today that a gay man or lesbian can't serve except for homophobia. Or, in the words of the White House philosopher James L. Jones, "whatever."
"Whatever." It's not whatever to the many men and women losing their jobs and, in many cases, their identies because they see themselves as members of the military but the military can only see them as gay or lesbian. Lt Dan Choi is an Iraq War veteran. He is also a strong fighter who publicly fought the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. July 22nd, he learned he had been discharged for the 'crime' of being gay. The following day, he appeared on PRI's The Takeaway.
Lt Dan Choi: A big surprise. It's painful as much as much as I'm prepared for that. Anytime somebody knowingly breaks Don't Ask, Don't Tell for the sake of integrity and telling the truth about who we are, we still have to be prepared for the consequences --
John Hockenberry: Which were what? What did your commander say to you?
Lt Dan Choi: He said that I'd been discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
John Hockenberry: You're out.
Lt Dan Choi: I'm fired.
John Hockenberry: He said fired or he just said -- 'You're being honorably discharged'?
Lt Dan Choi: I'm being honorably discharged. That is an end to an entire era that I've started since I was age 18 --
John Hockenberry: How long have you been in the service?
Lt Dan Choi: -- I'm sorry. I have not been a civilian since then. And as much as you might be interested in how it was said and what was in the letter, to me, it's all a summation of the entire journey and it says it's all over. As much as you can prepare yourself and build up the armor to get ready for that, it's hard, it's very painful to deal with that. I think about every moment of being in the military since starting from West Point eleven years ago and preparing for deployments and infantry training and then going to Iraq and coming back and then starting a relationship and then all of the emotions of this entire journey just came right back at that moment when he said that your - your - your service is now terminated. I got the letter. He e-mailed me the letter, I got the letter yesterday morning, and in very cold words, it just said that I'm finished.
* Lt. Col. Fehrenbach will reach his 20-year retirement in September of 2011; just 14 months from now. He has been on desk duty at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho awaiting the results of nearly two years of investigations and discharge proceedings. If Lt. Col. Fehrenbach is discharged, he will lose his retirement benefits.
* In May of 2008, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach was notified that his commander was seeking to separate him from the US Air Force under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) after the Air Force received information from a civilian. He decided to fight his discharge after hearing then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama pledge to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
* Lt. Col. Fehrenbach served in the Former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He flew the longest combat sorties in his squadron's history, destroying Taliban and Al Qaeda targets in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. And after the Sept. 11th attacks, Fehrenbach was hand-picked to protect the airspace over Washington, D.C.
* Lt. Col. Fehrenbach's awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, nine Air Medals -- including one for Heroism -- the Aerial Achievement Medal, five Air Force Commendation Medals and the Navy Commendation Medal.
James Dao (New York Times) reports, "Lawyers for Colonel Fehrenbach assert that his case is among the most egregious applications of the policy in their experience. The Air Force investigation into his sexuality began with a complaint from a civilian that was eventually dismissed by the Idaho police and the local prosecutor as unfounded, according to court papers. Colonel Fehrenbach has never publicly said that he is gay. However, during an interview with an Idaho law enforcement official, he acknowledged having consensual sex with his accuser. Colonel Fehrenbach's lawyers say he did not realize Air Force investigators were observing that interview; his admission led the Air Force to open its 'don't ask' investigation."
In other news, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is on a diplomatic mission to Denver this week (he's D.C. based most weeks) and Al Bawaba notes, "In addition to his official events and meetings, Mr. Talabani's top priority while in Colorado is to express the deepest gratitude from the people of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to the U.S. Military and their families for their role in liberating Iraq from tyranny. While in Colorado, he will also visit with families who paid the ultimate price of losing a loved one in the fight for Iraq's freedom and democracy."
We'll note this from Debra Sweet's "How YOU Can Help People See the Truth Exposed by Wikileaks" (World Can't Wait):
When an activist from World Can't Wait sent me a link to Thursday's Pentagon press conference, and called Geoff Morell, their spokesman a "pompus ass," I thought that wasn't really a news flash.
But really, to get the full impact of the government's threat to Julian Assange & Wikileaks for revealing the government's "property," you have to see Morell's sneer as the Pentagon reacted to Wikileak's posting of its huge "insurance" file, presumably designed to make sure the information is still available if their sites are shut down, or they are rounded up.
Tired of Democrats who abandon their base, who mock the left and sneer at it? There are many other choices -- including choosing not to vote. Mid-terms can be the ideal time to send Democrats in office the message that if they don't work for you, you'll hire/elect someone who will. And with that, we'll close with this from the Green Party of Michigan
:Green Party of Michigan ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ www.MIGreens.org ** News Release ** ** ------------ **August 11, 2010 For More Information, Contact: ----------------------------- Dianne Feeley email@example.com (734) 272-7651 John A. La Pietra, Elections Co-ordinator / GPMI firstname.lastname@example.org (269) 781-9478 Green Party of Michigan Holds Nominating Convention===================================================(Lansing) -- The Green Party of Michigan selected candidates over the July 31-August 1 weekend at its nominating convention in Lansing. Harley G. Mikkelson, from Caro, is the Green Party's candidate for governor with Lynn Meadows, from Ann Arbor, as lieutenant governor. In the wake of the oil spill on the Kalamazoo River, Mikkelson pointed out that "accidents always happen" when our society is dependent on oil and coal. "In a state known for its manufacturing we have to prioritize an alternative energy policy. Manufacturing plants running under capacity or closed should be converted into building mass transit. If private business is unable to do this, the state government should be working with communities and the work force to begin this transition." The oil spill points to the intersection of two central issues in the 2010 Green Party campaign: tying the need for jobs to the need for move away from using non-renewable energy, whether oil or hydrocarbons, and transitioning toward wind, water and geothermal power. The party also opposes nuclear energy as a solution -- it also poses grave safety issues. In the interim, as Julia Williams, of Fraser, who is running for U.S. Congress in the 12th District, pointed out, regulations must be strengthened: "We need to get away from allowing corporations to write the laws. They can't be dictating our future. That means tough regulations and an oversight process that prioritizes safety and sustainability. We need to walk the walk when we talk about protecting our water and our air." It was clear to Green Party activists attending the convention that both the BP oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and the 35-mile long Enbridge Energy Company spill along the Kalamazoo River are the result of depending on corporate promises to do the right thing. But both cases are examples of how inadequate and unprepared the corporations really are. Both have been cited by various agencies but did not face immediate shutdown or takeover. For those who ask, "Where can the money come from to convert our manufacturing?", Green Party candidates point to a federal war budget that only brings more war and destruction as well as starves our social programs and infrastructure. As Harley Mikkelson remarked: "The first priority naturally has to be people. We need to make education, continuing education and early education, more and more available. That has to be the number one priority, that and the environment, passing on an environment that's better than what was passed on to us." For more information about all Green Party candidates in Michigan, go to: www.MIGreens.org # # # created/distributed using donated labor Green Party of Michigan 548 South Main Street Ann Arbor, MI 48104 http://www.migreens.org 734-663-3555 GPMI was formed in 1987 to address environmental issues in Michigan politics. Greens are organized in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each state Green Party sets its own goals and creates its own structure, but US Greens agree on Ten Key Values: Ecological Wisdom Grassroots Democracy Social Justice Non-Violence Community Economics Decentralization Feminism Respect for Diversity Personal/Global Responsibility Future Focus/Sustainability