Thursday, August 05, 2010

The never-ending, illegal war

But as Major General Stephen Lanza, the US military spokesman in Iraq, told the New York Times: "In practical terms, nothing will change". After this month's withdrawal, there will still be 50,000 US troops in 94 military bases, "advising" and training the Iraqi army, "providing security" and carrying out "counter-terrorism" missions. In US military speak, that covers pretty well everything they might want to do.
Granted, 50,000 is a major reduction on the numbers in Iraq a year ago. But what Obama once called "the dumb war" goes remorselessly on. In fact, violence has been increasing as the Iraqi political factions remain deadlocked for the fifth month in a row in the Green Zone. More civilians are being killed in Iraq than Afghanistan: 535 last month alone, according to the Iraqi government – the worst figure for two years.
And even though US troops are rarely seen on the streets, they are still dying at a rate of six a month, their bases regularly shelled by resistance groups, while Iraqi troops and US-backed militias are being killed in far greater numbers and al-Qaida – Bush's gift to Iraq – is back in business across swaths of the country. Although hardly noticed in Britain, there are still 150 British troops in Iraq supporting US forces. Meanwhile, the US government isn't just rebranding the occupation, it's also privatising it. There are around 100,000 private contractors working for the occupying forces, of whom more than 11,000 are armed mercenaries, mostly "third country nationals", typically from the developing world. One Peruvian and two Ugandan security contractors were killed in a rocket attack on the Green Zone only a fortnight ago.

That's from Seumas Milne's "The US isn't leaving Iraq, it's rebranding the occupation" (Guardian) and aAfter the excerpt, Seumas will go on to quote crackpot Jeremy Scahill thereby ruining his piece. Never forget that the Guardian doesn't call out Samantha Power. Ever. The Guardian is liberal 'interventionists' -- it always has been. Rah-rah war! Which is why they not only didn't publish the Downing Street Memos, they never did an article on them. You'll notice their columnists largely ignore certain issues. For example, Canadian ones haven't demanded Canada's exit from Afghanistan in their plaforms -- even when they pose as 'left' and 'unbranded' and 'logo-less' (getting the point?). They'll bore the entire world with arcane columns on tar sands but they'll remain silent on the Afghanistan War. The Guardian is the paper of the Labour Party -- a party organ. It doesn't call out war too strongly and certainly not while England is involved. The Guardian is among the 'news' papers which helped create the myth that hatchet faced Samantha Power was a woman of 'peace.'

The recent collapse of the left in the US started around the time they were sold the Guardian as a 'left' paper. (It's a neoliberal paper.) It's as pathetic as anything you can find in the US* where grown men get bitchy writing about the weddings of young women. Because, apparently, old queens who can't write for a daily anymore and want to pretend they didn't go down on nearly every male in the commune back in the day (yes, we do remember those days and, yes, we probably have the largest treasure trove of correspondence going into and out of that commune) need to 'butch' it up before someone gets suspicious and what better way than by attacking a young woman and her wedding? And remember, as you go through one US 'lefty' outlet after another and see so many males ignore yesterday's victory for marriage equality that it's not the topic of marriage they avoid (obviously, check out their slams on a young woman), but they have to move far into the back of the closet because those 'experimental' phases (and 'phases') are things they want to keep buried. Or suppressed. (*Some Guardian friends will argue with that assessment. I look forward to the phone calls.) [Juan Gonzalez has always been secure in his manhood which is why he does such a strong job this morning with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! reporting on the court's verdict.]

Robert Grenier (Al Jazeera) does a much better job with his analysis. (But then he's obviously been following developments for more than a 24 hour news cycle.) Ivan Eland ( adds:

In Iraq, few serious analysts are gullible enough to believe that all U.S. forces will be withdrawn from the country as scheduled by the end of 2011. Most believe that the U.S. government will renegotiate the status of forces agreement with any new Iraqi government -- making the heroic assumption that there is a new Iraqi government by next year -- to leave some forces permanently in that country. That move would be ill advised, because, although the American media and public seem to believe that Iraq is on the road to becoming a stable democracy, it is very likely that larger-scale violence will resume as U.S. forces are reduced. Recent bombings and violence lead to serious questions about whether Iraqi security forces will be able to handle the already rising ethno-sectarian violence without a substantial American military presence. The various ethno-sectarian militias have never been disarmed and have been likely laying low until the U.S. drawdown is further along, much as the Taliban did in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2005.

Why the switch from the UN mandate to the SOFA anyway? One reason was Chapter 7. Alsumaria TV reports today that Iraq's Ambassador to the UN is again requesting that Iraq be taken out of chapter 7. (Apparently Nouri's running low on funds.) Meanwhile Alsumaria TV notes US Ambassador to Iraq (for now) Chris Hill is, in the midst of packing his office apparently, insisting that the political stalemate needs to end. Riyadh Mohammed (Los Angeles Times) notes the justice stalemate:

The man who ranked 54th in the "deck of cards" of 55 most-wanted members of Saddam Hussein's regime has been freed, family members and Iraqi officials said Wednesday.
Khamis Sirhan Mohammedi, the former chairman of the Baath Party in the southern city of Karbala, was released Friday and spent the next few days being feted at his home near Fallouja in Anbar province by well-wishers, including local officials, members of the Sunni Awakening movement and tribal sheiks.

With no safety and no justice in Iraq, more and more women are arming themselves. Bassem al-Anbari (AFP) reports from Anbar Province, "Many wives of civil servants, security personnel, elected provincial officials and journalists began arming themselves in June 2009, when insurrectionists attacked the homes of notable residents or members of the police force. In this largely desert province where the arid plain is interrupted by meadows and orchards on both banks of the Euphrates river, the foliage provides effective camouflage for gunmen, whose weapons of choice are handguns and the AK47 assault rifle."

Turning to the topic of Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported last month that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported last month that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. The Bradley Manning Support Network is organizing a rally for this Sunday (at noon) outside the Quantico Marine Corps Base when Bradley's being held. Mark Hosenball (Newsweek) adds:

As we reported last week, WikiLeaks is believed to be sitting on a vast archive of secret reports from U.S. forces in Iraq similar to the trove of 76,000 documents the site made public on July 25 -- but as much as three times larger. (The site has also reportedly withheld as many as 15,000 additional Afghanistan-related documents as potential security problems.) Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who was arrested by military investigators earlier this year on charges of unauthorized downloading and disclosure of classified information, has been quoted on the techie blogs Threat Level and boingboing as referring to "a database of half a million events during the iraq war" in purported e-mail chatter.
One person familiar with the Iraq cache claims that it shows U.S. forces' involvement in a "bloodbath" in that country, although some of the most controversial material may relate to alleged abusive treatment of detainees by Iraqi security forces, rather than by Americans. It is unclear who -- besides the site's Australian founder and frontman, Julian Assange -- might be involved in vetting the unreleased documents, but a source familiar with the material says more than one person is involved in the review.

Patrick Martin (WSWS) reports on attacks on WikiLeaks from across the political spectrum and we'll note the ones from what passes for the left:

Liberal Democrats have chimed in with their own proposals to target Wikileaks. According to a report Wednesday in the New York Times, two Senate Democrats, Charles Schumer of New York and Diane Feinstein of California, are drafting an amendment to the "media shield" legislation now being considered in Congress "to make clear that the bill’s protections extend only to traditional news-gathering activities and not to web sites that serve as a conduit for the mass dissemination of secret documents."
The bill was originally drafted in response to a series of cases in which reporters were jailed for refusing to disclose their sources to judges, prosecutors or plaintiffs in lawsuits. In order to avoid WikiLeaks taking advantage of such a shield law, Schumer and Feinstein want to specifically exclude whistleblower sites.
The Times quoted Paul J. Boyle, senior vice president for public policy at the Newspaper Association of America, the industry trade group, endorsing such a policy, which would reserve this type of First Amendment protection for "traditional news organizations subject to American law and having editorial controls and experience in news judgment." In other words, such safeguards would be reserved to the corporate-controlled media, run by people loyal to the American ruling elite and the capitalist state.
The major concern of those targeting WikiLeaks and Private Manning is that the leaks of internal government documents provide evidence to justify war crimes prosecution of US government officials, past and present. To save their own skins, they want to criminalize the exposure of these atrocities, rather than the atrocities themselves.

The Dry Land is playing in three cities currently: Los Angeles, New York and Dallas. The Ryan Piers Williams directed film stars America Ferrera, Ryan O'Nan, Wilmer Valderrama, Melissa Leo and Jason Ritter.


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