Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Iraq 'withdrawal'

Yesterday, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made a statement. As Mike noted last night, The NewsHour (PBS) led yesterday's headlines with it:

HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. may be open to keeping American troops in Iraq past the end of 2011, the current deadline for withdrawal. Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested today the timetable could slide, but he went on to say, "The initiative clearly needs to come from the Iraqis." Gates also urged Iraq's political factions to end eight months of deadlock and form a new government.

Today on The Takeaway (PRI), retired Col Jack Jacobs joins John Hockenberry and Celeste Headlee to discuss Gates' remarks. Where's the Beggar Media? They don't really think the useless people fired Monday -- and on air yesterday -- will be the last dregs gotten rid of, do they? They do realize that they're all at risk and that goes beyond KPFA, right?

Apparently not. If you want to know about Keith Olbermann or never ending discussions of last week's mid-terms, The Nation will continue to post multiple fluff on both daily and has. But things that actually matter? You won't find it in or at The Nation. (See Elaine's "Where did The Nation's readers go?" from last night.) To his credit, Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) does an audio minute on Iraq and Gates' remarks. For those who cannot stream online (or who don't want to) or those for whom streaming is of no use due to hearing issues, Bill Van Auken (WSWS) contributes a major essay on the latest:

The reality is that the Obama administration is presently exerting intense political pressure aimed at breaking an eight-month-old deadlock in the formation of a new Iraqi government so that it can have a US client regime capable of taking the “initiative” of asking American troops to stay.
US efforts have intensified in the aftermath of the midterm elections as part of a broad further turn to the right in both US foreign and domestic policies.
Last August, the Obama administration had celebrated the withdrawal of a single Stryker brigade from Iraq, proclaiming that its members were the last combat troops deployed in the country and that the US combat mission had ended.
The reality is that nearly 50,000 US troops remain in Iraq, the bulk of them with the same combat capabilities as the brigades that have been withdrawn. The US Air Force remains in control of Iraqi airspace and the US Navy controls its coastlines.
Obama sought to exploit the drawdown of US forces from their peak of 170,000—many of them redeployed to the “surge” in Afghanistan—for political purposes, claiming in the run-up to the elections that the Democratic president had fulfilled his campaign promise to end the war in Iraq.
This was a patent fraud. The timetable for the troop drawdown and the December 2011 final withdrawal was set not by Obama, but rather by a Status of Forces Agreement negotiated between the Bush administration and the US puppet government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad.
The Obama administration is now moving to abrogate this Bush era treaty in order to secure an indefinite US military grip over Iraq.
The immediate impediment to this plan is the absence of a government in Baghdad to sign a new agreement. Eight months after the election last March, the country’s rival political factions have been unable to cobble together a viable coalition.

Which brings us to the stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 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 eight months and two days and still counting.

Parliament is scheduled to hold its second session tomorrow. It may or may not. This week, we were told over the weekend, was when the stalemate crumbled. We were told the major players would meet up on Monday and Tuesday -- and even Wednesday if needed! -- to resolve the differences. It's Wednesday. There have been two days of meet-ups -- if they produced anything of value, it remains hidden from the world. (Also true, yesterday's meet-up had no-shows and walk-outs.) Rawya Rageh (Al Jazeera) offers a video report on how MPs occupy their time with Parliament not holding sessions.

Turning to Germany where Deutsche Welle reports where Iraq War veteran Andre Shepherd continues to fight for asylum:

Shepherd's asylum application cites a 2004 European Union regulation that grants refugee status to any soldier who is in danger of being prosecuted if his or her military service "would include crimes or acts" which violate international law. But some fear granting Shepherd asylum could create an easy way out for Americans stationed in Germany who want to avoid combat duty in Iraq.
That's not likely, says Friedrich, because asylum cases are considered individually.
Friedrich explains, "If Andre Shepherd is granted asylum, than that decision will take the form of a letter, exactly one page, with a letterhead. And it will say, 'In light of the document submitted, Andre Shepherd is granted asylum.' That's it - there is no explanation or rationalization. So it's not a political stance, unless you say, the recognition of the asylum application is in and of itself a political stance."

For more on Andre, you can refer to Australia's The Guardian (The Worker's Weekly) interview by Elsa Rassbach (from 2009). And we'll close with this from Stop These Wars:

During the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King called our government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” True then—and even more so today.

A few years before that, in 1964 Mario Savio made his great speech at Berkeley; at the end he says, ”There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

There are children being orphaned, maimed or killed every day, in our name, with our tax dollars; there are soldiers and civilians dying or being maimed for life, in order to generate profits for the most odious imperialistic corporate war machine ever, again in our name. How long are we going to let this go on? Until it is too late, until this destructive machine destroys all of us and the planet to boot?

Wikileaks has revealed the documented horror of U.S. war-making, beyond what any of us imagined. It’s time veterans and others express our resistance directly and powerfully by putting ourselves on the line, once again—honestly, courageously and without one drop of apology for doing so. It is not we who are the murderers, torturers or pillagers of the earth.

Profit and power-hungry warmongers are destroying everything we hold dear and sacred.

In the early thirties, WW1 vets descended on Washington, D.C., to demand their promised bonuses, it being the depths of the Depression. General Douglas MacArthur and his sidekick Dwight Eisenhower disregarded President Herbert Hoover’s order and burned their encampment down and drove the vets out of town at bayonet point.

We are today’s bonus marchers, and we’ve coming to claim our bonus–PEACE.

Join activist veterans marching in solidarity to the White House, refusing to move, demanding the end of U.S. wars, which includes U.S. support—financial and tactical—for the Israeli war machine as well.

If we can gather enough courageous souls, nonviolently refusing to leave the White House, willing to be dragged away and arrested if necessary, we will send a message that will be seen worldwide. “End these wars – now!” We will carry forward a flame of resistance to the war machine that will not diminish as we effectively begin to place ourselves, as Mario Savio said, “upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus.” and we will make it stop.

We believe that the power of courageous, committed people is greater than that of corporate warmongers. But we will only see our power when we use it collectively, when we stand together.

With courage, persistence, boldness and numbers, we can eventually make this monstrous war machine grind to a halt, so that our children and all children everywhere can grow up in a peaceful world.

Join us at the White House on December 16th!

For a world in peace,

Nic Abramson – Veterans For Peace, Elliott Adams – Past President,Veterans For Peace, Laurie Arbeiter-Activist Response Team, Ken Ashe -Veterans For Peace, Ellen Barfield-Veterans For Peace, Brian Becker-ANSWER Coalition, National Coordinator, Frida Berrigan-War Resisters League, Bruce Berry-Veterans For Peace, Leah Bolger-Veterans For Peace, Elaine Brower-Anti-war Military Mom and World Can’t Wait, Scott Camil-Veterans For Peace, Ross Caputi- Justice For Fallujah Project, Kim Carlyle-Veterans For Peace, Matthis Chiroux-Iraq War Resister Veteran, Gerry Condon-Veterans For Peace, Will Covert-Veterans For Peace, Dave Culver-Veterans For Peace, Matt Daloisio-War Resisters League, Ellen Davidson-War Resisters League, Mike Ferner-President, Veterans For Peace, Nate Goldshlag-Veterans For Peace, Clare Hanrahan-War Crimes Times, Mike Hearington-Veterans For Peace, Tarak Kauff-Veterans For Peace, Kathy Kelley-Voices For Creative Nonviolence, Sandy Kelson-Veterans For Peace, Joel Kovel-Veterans For Peace, Erik Lobo-Veterans For Peace, Joe Lombardo-United National Antiwar Committee, Ken Mayers -Veterans For Peace, Nancy Munger-co-President, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Fred Nagel-Veterans For Peace, Pat O’Brien-Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Bill Perry-Vietnam Veterans Against The War, Vito Piccininno -Veternas For Peace, Mike Prysner-co-founder, March Forward, Ward Reilly-Veterans For Peace, Laura Roskos-co-President, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Cindy Sheehan-Founder, Peace of the Action, David Swanson-author, Debra Sweet-National Director, World Can’t Wait, Mike Tork-Veterans For Peace, Hart Viges – Iraq Veterans Against the War, Jay Wenk-Veterans For Peace, Linda Wiener- Veterans For Peace, Diane Wilson -Veterans For Peace, Col. Ann Wright-Veterans For Peace, Doug Zachary-Veterans For Peace

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