Monday, November 15, 2010

Continued upheaval, continued lack of government

HANSEN: What was the Sunni walkout all about?

MCEVERS: Well, the power-sharing agreement between these three parties was actually pretty detailed. And a couple of things that the Sunnis got in the deal, in addition to the parliament speaker job, was that they would head a new version of Iraq's security council. This was an idea floated by the Obama administration. The hope is to get all the country's top leaders in a room, Sunni, Shiite and Kurd, and let them dictate major issues. Like, you know, whether American troops will stay past the December 2011 deadline. Also, the Sunnis were pushing to allow the return of some of their fellow party members who were banned from parliament because of their previous associations with Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. So, the walkout in parliament was basically because they wanted all of these things that they had agreed to to be voted on in the first session of parliament, to be sort of codified while everyone was watching on TV. And instead what the parliament members wanted to do was just name these top three posts.

That's Kelly McEvers discussing Iraq with Liane Hansen on yesterday's Weekend Edition (NPR -- link has audio and text). Virginia e-mailed to note that and wondered about Nouri's start date to form the government being pushed back? He was named prime minister-delegate Thursday and the 30 day countdown to form a cabinet of ministers or be replaced by another prime minister-delegate should have begun then. It now looks like the 'starting date' for the countdown will be around November 20th (November 20th was what the parties had agreed to with the US Ambassador last week -- before Thursday's events in the Parliament). It should start when he was named prime minister-delegate -- or as many bad news outlets, including NPR, 'reported' when he was named prime minister. Article 76 of the Iraqi Constitution is not open to interpretation. It is very clear as to when the countdown starts and as to what happens if you're unable to form a cabinet in 30 days -- form and have it approved by Parliament.

If the thinking is that this will give Nouri more time (and that's really the only way to interpret this effort to hit the snooze button), it's ignoring the reality that when the next month starts, time moves even quicker. Especially if the promised Kirkuk census does not take place. And if that doesn't take place, the Kurdsih bloc may be the strongest bloc in opposing ministers nominated by Nouri.

That's how you kill Nouri's chances at prime minister at this point. You prevent his ministers from being named. Each one has to pass a vote in Parliament -- as does his program itself -- and 163 is the minimum each minister will have to receive. That's also the magic number for creating a government. We saw it take eight months for something to work out on the previous magic numbers. Don't be surprised if reaching 163 over and over to approve his ministers throws a little snag in the proceedings.

Equally true, you hardly look ready to lead to the world when violence continues to scar your nation and you're named prime minister-delegate but won't do any work on that for at least a week. AFP notes 5 dead so far today in violence. Reuters counts five dead and nearly thirty wounded.

Friday October 22nd, WikiLeaks released 391,832 US military documents on the Iraq War. The documents -- US military field reports -- reveal torture and abuse and the ignoring of both. They reveal ongoing policies passed from the Bush administration onto the Obama one. They reveal that both administrations ignored and ignore international laws and conventions on torture. They reveal a much higher civilian death toll than was ever admitted to. Seven days short of one month later, In These Times finally finds the story. It's farmed out to an intern and it's nothing but crap. As requested, I gave it a link but I can't pretend it's anything worth reading. We covered WikiLeaks' revelations repeatedly here. In addition, Ava and I covered it in our TV pieces at Third "TV: The WikiLeaks reports" and "TV: Media of the absurd." In the pieces Ava and I wrote for Third, we're doing media criticism. That's our beat at Third. And we originated our own criticism. Meaning we didn't need to piece together from FAIR or Glenn Greenwald or shade it a little with regards to CJR. The first piece covered the day of the release and the day after, how broadcast commerical news handled the leaks. The second piece covered the way Panhandle Media covered the release. And we didn't wait for someone else to figure out how The Nation didn't cover it or how Democracy Now! bungled it, we did our own research. We also read a huge amount of the WikiLeaks documents -- not all, not even half.

The point being, we were able to talk about what was in the released documents. We were able to talk about that and how it was or was not covered by the media. If you're (finally) writing the first article about WikiLeaks for In These Times, you should probably include what the documents covered. Maybe if you don't know what's in the documents -- either from reading some of them or from reading some of the coverage of the documents -- you can't do that?

And when it comes to the New York Times and what they print -- especially if you're referring to what they print -- FAIR's Jim Naureckas is the last person you listen to. He never knows what's in print because he doesn't read the print version despite action alerts and other items from FAIR which tell you that the New York Times printed a story . . .

I don't think Naureckas knows a damn thing about the New York Times and I don't believe the intern realizes that there were two days of front page stories and he's only 'covering' the second day. (And forgetting the report James Glanz co-authored the second day which did begin on the front page.) Nor do I think anyone's given Sabrina Tavernise the credit for the work she did covering the leaks. It's all well and good to call out John F. Burns -- and we've done it while others have been scared to -- but if you're talking about the coverage in full, you need to note that Sabrina Tavernise did some strong work. The intern's obviously not read the print edition of either the Saturday October 23rd or Sunday October 24th WikiLeaks coverage. He runs to Glenn-Glenn's writing and the fact that the Times was "Pentagon subservient." First off, that's teething criticism. That's what you do before you learn to crawl. If anyone, at this late date, is unaware that the Times is the official record not because it's true but because it's the record of what officials want, they're really not paying attention. That's A. B, the paper wasn't subserviant to the Pentagon. It was subserviant to the White House -- as was Glenn-Glenn, as was FAIR, as was CJR. Were War Crimes committed?

You can argue a case on many different issues in the WikiLeaks release. But the strongest case for the US having commited War Crimes requires not falling back years and years -- to that safety zone of Bush bashing which everyone seems to think is so very brave in 2010, after the tyrant's long out of the White House. Angus Stickler's "Obama administration handed over detainees despite reports of torture" (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism) is the report to pay attention, the one that Salon didn't want to tackle, the one Amy Goodman didn't want to tackle, the one FAIR didn't want to tackle, the one In These Times can't find.

In These Times has waited nearly a month for their 'story' 'on' the WikiLeaks release and, when they finally have one, it's not about the release at all, not about the crimes, not about the violence. It's a media critique and it's not even an original one. It's a rehasing of points made in the week after the release took place. It has no real value and it certainly doesn't inform anyone about the revelations themselves. There was apparently no space for that because the intern and the magazine appear hopeful they'll get linkage love from all they mention. As for anyone being inspired by what they read -- the tired rehasing? The article doesn't even offer a link to the WikiLeaks war logs.

And all of the above has been gone over with the ITT friend who asked for the link except for one thing: I took screensnaps. Meaning, don't go back in and add a link without noting it. I'm really getting pissed on this. The Rhode Island election was largely tossed to the Chafee by a local TV station with ties to Chafee. That's why, right before election day, they ran the story that the Democratic candidates on Barack Obama had hurt him as a new poll revealed. The poll revealed no such thing -- though the story remained online for 32 hours and was picked up elsewhere. Not only did the poll not reveal that, the summary of the poll -- which I do have -- explicitly stated that the results did not reveal that. The TV station 'corrected' their whoary little tale. They did so without noting they'd changed their article. The 'mistake' was not an accident. It was an attempt to influence the election. Jim saw the story online and called me (I was on the road) because the polling didn't make sense to him (he was right, the TV station deliberately distorted the poll) and we got a copy of the poll immediately. What we forgot to do was to get the screen snaps. I try not to make that mistake anymore.

At Information Clearing House, you can stream an interview with Chris Hedges. And on Law and Disorder Radio (airs this morning on WBAI at 9:00 am EST -- and elsewhere around the country throughout the week), Heidi Boghosian provides an update on Mumia Abu-Jamal. Back to the topic of WikiLeaks, we'll note this from the Bradley Manning Support Network:

Washington, DC, November 10, 2010 – Last week, David House, a developer working with the Bradley Manning Support Network, was detained and had his computer seized by the FBI when returning from a vacation in Mexico. He committed no crime, nor was he ever alleged to have committed a crime. He was questioned extensively about his support for alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning, who has been imprisoned at Quantico for over 160 days.

This invasive search is of great concern to all Americans who value the Constitutionally-protected rights to free speech and free assembly. The campaign to free Bradley Manning – which has garnered the support of tens of thousands of individuals from across the United States and the world – is rooted in a belief that government transparency is key to a healthy democracy. Our network stands firm in support of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning and has raised over $80,000 for his defense. If he is a source for documents published by WikiLeaks illuminating the campaign of disinformation about US foreign wars, then Manning deserves the gratitude of the entire nation.

House sent an email to the Network describing his detainment, saying that, “My computer, video camera, and flash drive were confiscated, leaving me in a tough spot in terms of research obligations; the reason for the seizure, said the officials, was ‘border search.’”

The FBI denied House’s requests to have a copy of his research data. This seems to be part of a disturbing trend of intimidation and property seizure being carried out against activists critical of US policies, including the detainment and laptop seizure of activist Jacob Applebaum in July and the September 24th FBI raids against antiwar and social justice activists.

House has not been charged with a crime.

“I try to be as even-handed as possible, but based on the subject of the search I can’t help but feel that this constitutes a form of intimidation,” wrote House in an email to the Network, “I feel as though the DHS has turned to harassing the friends and supporters of Bradley Manning in a potential attempt to disrupt our abilities to run a legal defense network.”

The Bradley Manning Support Network denounces this recent attempt by the FBI to intimidate its supporters. Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime, and neither is standing up for Bradley Manning.

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