Saturday, May 29, 2010

Nouri keeps singing 'And I am telling you, I'm not going'

Leading figures from the Iraqiya List -- most prominently Iyad Allawi -- walked out of their latest meeting with Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al Sistani, the highest-ranking Shia Marja in Iraq, making the same old statements. They repeated the same phrase, "Al Sistani is keeping an equal distance from everyone. He doesn't favour one Iraqi political party over the other."
As for Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al Sistani who is present amid all these complications and the overlapping between religion, politics, history and interests, it would be wise on his part if he continues to keep his distance from everyone and avoids any imbalance in that respect.
Rafi al Issawi, who is a prominent figure in the Iraqiya List, warned the Iraqi political parties that claim that they are favoured by al Sistani, as he said, "Al Sistani expressed no explicit support for anyone." Two days earlier, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said the Shia attempt to close ranks had succeeded with little encouragement from the Grand Marjas in Iraq and Iran.

The above is from Mshari Al-Zaydi's "Al Sistani Fears the Distance" (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) and Parliamentary elections in Iraq concluded March 7th. Second place winner was the State Of Law political slate and Nouri's bound and determined to hold onto the position of prime minister. Khaled Farhan (Reuters) notes, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Saturday his party would not compromise on its choice of government leader, resisting pressure from potential coalition partners for him to step aside." Saad Abdul-Kadir (AP) reports the "comments revealed an unwillingness to budge in negotiations." Tang Danlu (Xinhua) reports:

Maliki came second with two seats less than the front-runner of March 7 parliamentary elections, the former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi who took the lead with 91 seats. Both leaders have been in a fierce struggle over who will have the right to form the new government.

Iraqi journalist Sardasht Osman was kidnapped from his college campus and murdered. His corpse was discovered May 6th. Vahal (Mideast Youth) weighs in:

The murder of Sardasht Osman is a crime that must be utterly and unconditionally condemned by anyone who cares for this region. It is sad, however, that this crime was so rapidly and so disgustingly politicized by the members of the opposition group. It saddens me that this cruel crime whose first and foremost target was the stability of this region, was so quickly prejudged by some lunatic figures whose zeal for authority and money allows them to cross all lines of ethics, including outright lying on TV stations.
There are those who believe in the freedom of expression and then are those who abuse that freedom in the name of "independent media," unfortunately many so called "independent" media outlets here in Kurdistan have opted to become part of the latter category. The "independent" newspapers in question are Hawlati and Awena newspapers, both of which refuse to reveal their sources of revenue, both of which mislead their readers by claiming that being independent of the establishment actually means independent journalism. A quick glance at either of these two papers reveals that there is no balanced reporting and that they both lack the most basic journalistic ethics.
Alas the Western press here in Iraq often relies on these papers for their news, for example, AFP has hired the chief editor of Awena to serve as their Kurdistan stringer/correspondent. By doing so, AFP is in violation of EU regulations of balanced reporting.

In some of today's reported violence, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and injured two more and Abdulmelik Marwan was shot dead in Mosul while the highs chool student was riding his motor cycle. Reuters notes 1 man and his son were shot dead in Hamam al-Alil and a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi police officer.

We'll note this from Sherwood Ross' "PLIGHT OF BLACK POOR: CONDITIONS CONTINUE TO WORSEN" (OpEd News):

“The conditions now, in my view, are unquestionably worse in the inner cities,” attorney and civil rights stalwart David Ginsburg told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Education is worse. Housing is worse. Unemployment is worse. We now have a drug problem that we didn’t have in 1967 and 1968. There are millions of handguns. The cities have been essentially disregarded by the federal government.”
Ginsburg knew what he was talking about. He served as executive director of President Lyndon Johnson’s National Commission on Civil Disorders, formed after explosive race riots swept the nation in 1967. He believed white America was responsible for that unrest by penning African-Americans into ghettos. “White institutions created it (the ghetto), white institutions maintain it and white society condones it,” he said, according to his obituary in The New York Times.
Ginsburg, who died May 23rd at his home in Alexandria, Va., at age 98, made the statement quoted above in 1992 comparing the situation then with the Sixties, but he might just as well have spoken today comparing our grim realities with the bleak Nineties. That’s because a poverty-struck black underclass continues to be a source of profits for the unscrupulous.
Slumlords charge exorbitant rents. “Convenience” stores charge higher prices. Military recruiters have their pick of jobless youth desperate for work. And the for-profit, private prisons increase their head count (and income) as the judicial system hands off the young drug peddlers caught in the legal web. As the Kaiser Family Foundation reported, African-Americans fill 40 percent of the nation’s prison cells. Yet they make up just 13 percent of the nation’s population.
It’s a fact, the Associated Press reported, that “More than three times as many black people live in prison cells as in college dorms,” according to a Census Bureau finding in 2006. “It’s one of the great social and economic tragedies of our time,” Marc Morial, president and CEO of the Urban League, commented. “It points to the signature failure in our education system and how we’ve been raising our children.”

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The fate of Alan McMenemy

May 29, 2007, in Baghdad, Peter Moore and four other British citizens were kidnapped by the League of Righteous. Of the other four, three corpses were turned over: Jason Crewswell, Jason Swindelhurst and Alec Maclachlan. The whereabouts and status of Alan McMenemy are unknown. The British government has stated their belief that he is dead while the family continues to hold out hope. The kidnapping is mentioned in the US State Dept's "2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices:"

Five British men (a computer expert and four bodyguards) were kidnapped in 2007. Peter Moore, the computer expert, was released unharmed on December 30, while the bodies of three of the four bodyguards were returned on June 19 and September 3 to the United Kingdom. The whereabouts of the fifth man remained unknown at year's end. Fifteen Americans, four South Africans, four Russian diplomats, and one Japanese citizen who were abducted since 2003 remained missing. There was no further information on the 2007 kidnapping of the Ministry of Science and Technology acting undersecretary, Samir Salim al-Attar.

Frank Gardner (BBC News) reports:

The wife of the only British hostage still missing in Iraq has appealed to his kidnappers to end her ordeal on the anniversary of his abduction.
Gunmen abducted five men including security guard Alan McMenemy, from Glasgow, exactly three years ago.
Rosaleen McMenemy has urged those holding him to show "mercy and compassion".
Only one of the men has been released alive, while the bodies of three others have been returned to Britain.

The Telegraph of London quotes Rosaleen McMenemy stating, ""It's now been three years since he's been held captive, which is 1,096 days. This is far too long for myself and our two children and I would ask those holding him to please show mercy and compassion and return him to us immediately and unconditionally. You've showed compassion by releasing his four colleagues and I would ask you to do the same for my family to bring closure to this."

Monday is Memorial Day and we'll note this from Senator Daniel Akaka's office:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Kawika Riley (Veterans’ Affairs)

May 28, 2010 (202) 224-9126


WASHINGTON, D.C. –Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) introduced S. 3447, a bill to improve the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits program. Akaka introduced the bill yesterday to provide a starting point for discussion among Members of Congress, veterans service organizations, and concerned Americans who want to improve this important benefit program.

“The World War II GI Bill changed my life, and my generation,” said Akaka, one of three current senators who attended college on the original GI Bill. “Hundreds of thousands of troops and veterans are already using the new GI Bill to pursue their education. Now that we have seen the benefit in action, this new legislation can improve the existing framework. I look forward to working through a comprehensive legislative process to pass a good improvement bill,” said Akaka.

Senator Akaka chaired an oversight hearing on the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill on April 21: LINK

Akaka cosponsored the Post-9/11 GI Bill of Rights Act and was a strong supporter of its passage in 2008. When former President Bush threatened to veto the bill, Akaka vowed that he would fight back. The bill was signed into law on June 30, 2008 and took effect last August.

To read Senator Akaka’s introductory remarks on the bill in the Congressional Record, click here: LINK


Kawika Riley

Communications Director

U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends

Friday, May 28, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Friday, May 29, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Newsweek's end seems poetic, Paul Bremer talks to the Iraq Inquiry, and more.
Starting with The Diane Rehm Show  and here is how the website notes their second hour and how it was noted in on air promos leading up to the (live) broadcast:
Vice President Biden says U.S. troops will be out of Iraq as scheduled [C.I. note: For the drawdown, this is not a withdrawal, for the August drawdown]. North and South Korea continue to ratchet up their rhetoric. And drug violence in Jamaica leaves dozens dead. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week's top international news stories.
Wow.  Iraq the first mentioned.  At last, it was going to get some serious attention, right?
Wrong.  It was one brief minute badly bungled by the biggest idiot on the show.  Diane's guests were  Elise Labott (CNN), Michael Hirsh (Newsweek) and David Sanger (New York Times).  David Sanger's out of his element as a second hour guest.  (The paper's Helene Cooper could handle it though international reporters would actually be better.)  Elisa Labott covers the State Dept and has an international background.  She would have been the best choice if ONLY ONE guest was going to BRIEFLY speak on Iraq.  Of the three, Sanger would be the second choice.  Michael Hirsh?
Uh, I believe America's rejected Newseek.  I believe that's why it can't find a buyer.  The trashy weekly (infamous for falsely printing that Jean Seberg was pregnant with the child of a 'Black activist'  -- a willing and knowing cooperation with the US government in an effort to destroy Jean) may get some CIA funding but the publishing industry's done with it because it can't grasp reality: There is no Barack publishing market.
Apparently, the Cult of St. Barack has either stopped drinking the Kool-Aid or they don't read.  But as one failed book after another, as one hyped magazine cover after another has failed to move, others in the publishing industry have moved on.  Newsweek can't stop dry humping Barack.  America has no trust in that rag, American has no interest in it. 
So Biden says the drawdown is on track?  We addressed that in yesterday's snapshot. Joe says the number of US troops in Iraq will be 50,000 by the end of August.  Next week is the start of June.  June, July and August.  3 months.  The Pentagon states there are 92,000 US troops in Iraq (they fed the press that number this week to trumpet that there were more troops in Afghanistan).  92,000 minus 50,000 is 42,000 troops.  The average number of troops in a brigade is 3,500.  That's well over ten brigades.  Candidate Barack Obama promised one brigade a month would be withdrawn from Iraq over his first sixteen months in office if elected (he broke that promise) and stated that it couldn't be more because more than one brigade a month would put too much stress on the system and put too much at risk.  (Those are what as known as "lies.")  Over 3 troops must be withdrawn in June, 3 in July and 3 in August for the deadline to be met. 
Michael Hirsh couldn't offer any of that.  He could stammer like the fool he is uh-uh-uh-uh.  He could lick the boots of Barack and pass that off as journalism but he couldn't deal with any of the facts.  His babbles summed up Newsweek.  A piss poor, piece of s**t, that never cared about the facts and never had anything to offer but opinion.
In partnership with the CIA, they published the lie that Jean Seberg was pregnant with the child of "a Black activist" in an effort to destroy Jean Seberg who was both an actress and a political activist speaking out agains the war in Vietnam and racism.  The CIA hooked up with Newsweek's foreign correspondent in France who did an interview with Jean that she described as bland.  But Edward Behr had already agreed to write up info the CIA wanted in his report for Newsweek. Kermit Lasner would offer excuses for how he, as editor, allowed the statement into print which would include a tough lunch that gave him 'hard gas' and a spill on scooter.  Here's what Newsweek printed in the August 24, 1970 issue: "She and French author Romain Gary, 56, are reportedly about to remarry even though the baby Jean expects in Ocotober is by another man -- a black activist she met in California." The US government wanted to destroy her and just knew that was the way to do it.  Publishing the lie, destroyed Jean personally for other reasons.  She lost the baby.  Romain sued.  He sued Newsweek.
But the CIA has so many helpers that a huge disinformation campaign has taken place over the last years and allowed Joyce Harber, a gossip columnist, to be blamed.  Joyce ran a blind item in May of 1970.  It could have been about Jean, it could have been about Jane Fonda, it could have been about any number of women and it caused no ripple.  Jean did not miscarry in May.  Jean didn't go into the hopsital in May.  That happened in August after Newsweek published their lie.  But Joyce Harber has been the target of the disinformation campaign and you will read the lie all over the net -- or hear from FAIR in any of its forms -- that Joyce is responsible and was working with Hoover's FBI.  Joyce didn't get the tip from the FBI. CIty editor Bill Thomas passed that rumor on to Joyce.  Joyce was always clear about where she got the information and how.  Bill?  Bill lied a million and one times and constantly changed his story.  He got his tip from the FBI.  He was doing Hoover's bidding.
But that attack didn't work out.  Harber was smart enough to know what she could and what she couldn't print.  And she also didn't think the tale (which she assumed true) was worth more than any other bit of gossip regarding who is sleeping with whom.
Edward Behr, fed by the CIA, ran with as a non-blind item months later. Kermit Lasner knew better but printed it because Newsweek was but an organ.  And Jean Seberg lost her baby.  So as Newsweek falters and falters, good.  Justice for Jean Seberg.
As illegal wars continue today in Iraq and Afghanistan, anyone considering themselves part of today's peace movement needs to reject the disinformation campaign that blames a blind item by Joyce Harber (which ran in May) for Jean's August miscarriage.  Anyone who considers themselves part of the peace movement needs to grasp that Newsweek actively and knowingly worked with the CIA to destroy Jean because she spoke out against American actions in Vietnamand against racism at home.  The government wanted to destroy Jean Seberg and Newsweek was more than willing to enlist in that campaign.  It is very easy to (wrongly) blame Harber and taking a stand against a (dead) gossip columnist never required bravery.  A lot of people have spent a lot of time over the last decades rewriting history.  Romain sued one and only one publication: Newsweek.  It's amazing how that falls from the public record as a disinformation campaign takes hold.
Who has been the most mentioned US citizen in the London inquiry chaired by John Chilcot into the Iraq War?  If you followed the coverage, the answer's obvious and it's in many snapshots such as the February 3rd one: "Paul Bremer is mentiioned in the Iraq Inquiry more than any other American (that includes Bush, Tommy Franks, Condi Rice, Blot Powell and all the rest)."  And as we noted as well, Bremer wasn't pleased about that.  Nor should he have been.  He wasn't occupying the Oval Office (that was Bush), he wasn't running things (that was Cheney).  As demonstrated with Jay Garner's firing, when the White House was displeased with the way their orders were being carried out in Iraq, they dumped the person immediately.  (The second most blamed by witnesses testifying before the Inquiry? Condi Rice and usually for a multi-page article published in 2000 that had approximately one paragraph on Iraq in it.) So it never made sense to hear one British witness after another repeatedly lay the blame on Bremer. 
But it always made sense that Bremer would want his say and he has.  In addition to offering testimony, he's issued a lengthy statement.  So lengthy that were this Monday or Tuesday, we'd serialize it with excerpts in each snapshot of this week.  It's Friday and I don't care for the New York Times' bitchy way of 'covering' Bremer which is to repeat charges against him and ignore his responses except on letters page where they usually fail to print his response in full.  So we're noting all of Bremer's statement in full.  Again, it is lengthy:
Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of Commission:             
Thank you for the opportunity to address this commission. The purpose of my statement is to convey my understanding of the objectives of the occupying authority in Iraq and to account for the major activities that authority undertook.  I take this opportunity to summarize for the commission the points that I consider important to its review.  After my statement, I am prepared to answer your questions.                
At the outset I would make three general points.                
  1. I should remind the commission that prior to assuming my duties in Iraq I had been in the private sector for about fourteen years. In the prewar period, I was neither in the US government nor informed of governmental deliberations except through press reports.  Therefore I had, and still have, no firsthand knowledge about those prewar deliberations.           
  2. While I recognize the focus of the commission is on British government decisions involving the CPA's time in Iraq, my perspective is on American government actions with which I am familiar.           
  3. It is impossible to exaggerate the difficulties created by the chronic under-resourcing of the CPA's efforts.  This problem, and the fact that the Coalition was unable to provide adequate security for Iraqi citizens, pervaded virtually everything we did, or tried to do, throughout the fourteen months of the CPA's existence.                 
* * * * * * * * * * * *          
Three weeks after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush asked me to become Presidential Envoy to Iraq.  I spent the next several weeks in a round of meetings and briefings with the relevant departments of the US government in Washington.  I arrived in Baghdad on May 12, 2003 and stayed until June 28, 2004.  During this period, I served as Presidential Envoy to Iraq and Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).             
I have written an extensive account of my experience in My Year in Iraq; The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope (2006).          
My authorities as Presidential Envoy, enumerated in a letter from the President, were modeled on the standard letter every American Chief of Mission receives and were consistent with American law concerning those authorities.  As with the standard Chief of Mission letter, mine affirmed my authority for all American government employees within Iraq, except for American military personnel serving there under the command of military authorities.  Thus, consistent with American law and long-standing practice, I was not in the military chain of command.                       
The Secretary of Defense appointed me Administrator. His letter stated that in that position I was to exercise all executive, legislative and judicial authority over the government of Iraq.  I was given to understand that these authorities derived from the Coalition's status as an "occupying power" under international law, as recognized in the relevant UN Security Council resolution.        
* * * * * * * * * * * *                
In Iraq the Coalition had three major challenges:          
  1. To provide security for the citizens of Iraq.                  
  2. To help the Iraqis rebuild their economy.              
  3. To help the Iraqi people put their country on the path to representative government.                  
The Coalition military had responsibility for the first task; the CPA for the other two.                 
It was evident to me from the start that the prewar planning had been inadequate, largely because it was based on incorrect assumptions about the nature of the post-war situation on the ground in Iraq.                

Pervasive Lack of Security         

Even before I left for Baghdad, I was concerned that the Coalition had insufficient troops to carry out its primary duty of providing security for the Iraqi people.  I was struck by the evidence to this effect provided in a draft study from the RAND corporation shown to me before I left for Baghdad.  
That study examined a number of post-conflict situations to determine in such situations the appropriate ratio of troops on the ground to the host country population.  Applying the lessons of that study, the RAND report concluded that the Coalition military in Iraq should number some 480,000.  Yet the day I arrived in Iraq, total strength of Coalition forces was less that half that number.   Troop strength declined thereafter.                    
Restrictive Rules of Engagement (ROEs) under which Coalition forces operated in Iraq compounded this numerical deficit.  For example, although there were some 40,000 Coalition troops in Baghdad when I arrived, since the collapse of the Saddam regime looters had pillaged at will for more than three weeks undisturbed by Coalition forces.  Coalition troops had no orders to stop the looting and the Iraqi police in all major cities had deserted their posts.  
The looting was done out of rage, revenge and for profit.  It later became evident that some looting was also part of a prewar plan of Saddam Hussein's intelligence services.                 
The unchecked violence had three consequences.  First was the enormous economic damage, not just in Baghdad but throughout Iraq.   The CPA's economic experts later calculated the economic cost of the looting to be $12 billion, an amount equal to half Iraq's prewar GDP.            
Secondly, focusing much of their rage on hated Iraqi governmental institutions, the looters destroyed a large part of the physical infrastructure of the government.  The Baghdad headquarters of 21 of 25 ministries were entirely or largely destroyed.  Throughout the CPA's tenure, the crucial Ministry of Finance had room for only half of its civil servants, who therefore worked in shifts throughout that time.  The same was true of the Ministry of Education. 
All the country's police stations were ransacked, often burned down.  Iraq's military bases and barracks in most cases were entirely disassembled -- windows, doors, furniture, pipes and bathroom fixtures--so that often not a brick stood on another.               
But the most pernicious effect of the unchecked looting was to send a message to the Iraqi people, and to enemies of the Coalition, that the Coalition military would not, or could not, provide security for Iraqis, the most basic of government functions.           
I would like to set the record straight on the decision about the Iraqi army.  The decision was based on the nature and role of Iraq's army during Saddam's three decade rule; the status of the army after the fall of Baghdad; and the practical and political considerations about the structure of any future Iraqi army.      
Since the establishment of Iraq after the First World War, the army had played an important, and at least initially, constructive role in Iraq.  However, for more than three decades Saddam had used that army as an essential element of his brutal repression and terror against the Iraqi people.         
During the 1980s, the Iraqi army had conducted a vicious war, considered by some legal experts to be a war of genocide, against Iraq's Kurds.  Hundreds of thousands of Kurds were killed, maimed or tortured.  More still were made refugees after the army destroyed their homes.  This "anfal" campaign culminated in the use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish town of Halabja on March 18, 1988 in which at least 5,000 innocent men, women and children were killed; thousands more were horribly scarred for life.              
After the first Gulf War, Saddam used the army to brutally repress a Shia uprising in the South.  Again hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens were killed -- machine gunned and thrown into mass graves; for example, one field discovered near al-Hilla the week I arrived contained more than 30,000 bodies.  During the 14 months of the CPA, over 300 mass graves were discovered.           
Iraq's prewar army had been composed of some 300,000 enlisted men, all of them drafted into the army and the vast majority of them Shia.  The officer corps, which was almost as large, was composed almost entirely of Sunnis.  The enlisted men were regularly mistreated, even brutalized, by their officers.           
When it became clear that Iraq was losing the war, this army had "self-demobilized", as the US Defense Department put it.  Shia draftees by the thousands deserted their posts and went back to their villages, farms and families.  Before I arrived in Iraq, the top commander of the Coalition forces, General Abizaid, had reported to the Department of Defense that not a single unit of the old army was in place intact anywhere in Iraq.            
Thus, any prewar thought of using the army for peaceful reconstruction projects had become simply irrelevant -- unless the Coalition proposed to recall the old army.  While some American officers had discussed the possibility of recalling elements of the former army, such a course ran straight into practical and political objections.               
The large corps of enlisted men had gone home and would not voluntarily return to serve under brutal Sunnis officers.  So the Coalition military would have had to send Coalition troops, already short-handed, into the Shia villages to force draftees back at gunpoint.  This was not a course of action which commended itself to anyone of responsibility in the US government. Moreover, since looting had destroyed Iraq's military infrastructure, there would have been no place to train and house the army.                
To these practical problems were added decisive political arguments against recalling the army.             
Already before the war, the State Department's extensive study for post war Iraq (The Future of Iraq) had stated that:  "The Iraqi Army of the future cannot be an extension of the present army, which has been made into a tool of dictatorship."   Kurdish leaders, hearing rumors that some Coalition officers were considering reconstituting Saddam's army, made very clear to me that such a move would trigger Kurdish secession from Iraq.  That would have provoked an immediate civil war and a broader and more dangerous regional war.              
Moreover, Iraq's Shia population, following the counsel of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, was openly cooperating with the Coalition.  But they, too, had powerful historic reasons to resent the idea of recalling the Iraqi army.   Together the Kurds and the Shia make up about 80% of Iraq's population.              
So the best course open to the Coalition, announced in late May, was to build a new professional Iraqi army.  This decision had been under review by senior Defense Department civilian and military leaders since it became evident in early April that the former army was no longer intact.               
The CPA's senior advisor, Walter Slocombe conducted these discussions, first in Washington, then in London and Baghdad.  American officials recognized that any prewar plan to make use of the old army had been rendered irrelevant by facts on the ground.  On his way to Bagdad on May 13 and 14 2003, Slocombe briefed senior British officials in London on the plans.  His British interlocutors recognized that demobilization was a fait accompli.  None of them expressed the view that the Coalition should instead try to recall the Iraqi army.  In fact, Slocombe reported that the British officials agreed with the need for vigorous de-Baathification, especially in the security sector.                
The first battalion of the new army went into training in late July 2003.  We made clear at the outset that this would be an all-volunteer army and that enlisted men from the old army were welcome to seek reenlistment.  The CPA also announced that officers from Saddam's army up to the rank of Colonel could apply for positions in the new army.                   
Recognizing the impact of not recalling all of Saddam's army, the Coalition decided to pay all enlisted men a separation bonus.  And because the planned new Iraqi army would be much smaller than Saddam's, we also paid all but the most senior former officers a monthly pension set at a level higher than they would have received from Saddam's government.  Those payments, made from Iraqi government funds, continued throughout the CPA period and were continued after the return of a sovereign Iraqi government.  It was a mistake not to announce the payments at the same time we announced the Coalition's intent to create a new army.  As soon as we did announce the payments (in mid June 2003), unrest and demonstrations by former officers immediately stopped. 
No doubt some members of the former army may have subsequently joined the insurgency.  But if they did so, for most of them it was not because they had been denied an opportunity to serve their country again or otherwise to live on their pensions.  It was because they wanted to install a Baathist dictatorship.
Today the new Iraqi army, built from the ground up, is the country's most respected institution; a significant contrast to the police which the CPA did recall and which continues to be plagued by human rights and criminal abuses.    
* * * * * * * * * * * *                         

Rebuilding a devastated Economy                                 

The second challenge facing the Coalition was to get Iraq's economy back on its feet and to begin restoring essential services to the Iraqi people.           
Through a combination of large-scale corruption, spectacular misallocation of Iraq's capital resources and UN-imposed sanctions, Saddam's three decade rule had destroyed one of the region's best economies. A few specifics show magnitude of the CPA's economic challenge.                           
  1. In 1980, Iraq's per capita income had been greater than    Spain's.  By 2002 it had fallen below Angola's.                                
  2. During the 1990s, Saddam cut healthcare spending by 90%.  The World Bank estimated that Iraq had shortest life expectancy and highest child mortality in region.                            
  3. The UN reported that at least half of Iraq's schools needed to be entirely rebuilt.                      
  4. Iraq's industrial sector was dominated by 192 state-owned enterprises (SOEs), value- destroying entities dependent on politically-mandated loans, often buying goods at politically-fixed prices and making products for non-existent markets.                   
  5. The World Bank estimated that the country needed between $75 and $100 billion in new investment just to repair the country's dilapidated economic infrastructure                 
The state budget had been a secret under Saddam, but what was clear is that it was in chronic deficit.  Every Friday, the central bank would simply print the amount of new currency Saddam estimated would be needed the following week.  As a result of this colossal fiscal indiscipline, Saddam's Ministry of Planning estimated that at the end of 2002 inflation had been running at an annual rate of over 100,000%.  The same ministry reported that the prewar unemployment was 50%.                  
Even before the war, Iraq's electricity production was estimated be fulfill less than half demand.  At the fall of Baghdad, the entire country was producing less than 300 MW of electricity, about a tenth of prewar levels; no oil was being exported so the Iraqi government had no revenues.  Civil servants, by far the majority of the employed population, had not been paid salaries or pensions for months.  Hospitals and schools were closed.  The primitive banking system was shuttered.  In short, Saddam's Iraq had been the equivalent of a well-armed Potemkin village.                                   
The CPA took aggressive action to deal with the economy.  Salaries and pensions were increased three to five fold and paid out within a week of my arrival.  Barriers to trade were removed by eliminating import tariffs.  Taxes were lowered and exchange rate freed to be determined by the market rather than by bureaucrats.  Massive employment projects were set on foot to create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Over the next 14 months, the CPA and Coalition military units completed over 22,000 individual reconstruction projects all over the country. 
Within 4 months, the CPA's actions had begun reviving the economy.  By October 1, 2003, the Coalition had rebuilt over 2,000 schools.  The CPA had increased Iraq's healthcare budget by 1300%.   All Iraq's hospitals and clinics had been reopened and distribution of drugs had been increased 700%.   Electricity and oil production had returned to prewar levels.  All the nation's bank branches were reopened (though they still lacked capacity for electronic transfer of funds so Iraqi government expenses had to be paid in cash).                       
At the same time, the CPA worked with Iraqis to establish principles and institutions fitting for a modern economy.  Iraqi ministries, working with CPA advisors, produced balanced government budgets for 2003 and 2004.  The CPA introduced the principles of monetary responsibility by establishing the independence of Iraq's central bank and freed interest rates to be determined by the marketplace, not by bureaucrats as had been done under Saddam.  Working with the Iraqis, the CPA repealed Saddam's prohibition against foreign investment, except in the oil industry.  Despite a primitive banking system, poor infrastructure and a war, the CPA succeeding in replacing Saddam's near-worthless currency with a New Iraqi Dinar which has since floated freely against all world currencies.                                  
The CPA evaluated the SOEs and found that most of them probably could not survive in a free market.   The economic arguments for privatizing those that could survive and closing the rest were powerful.  But because these firms employed over 500,000 people, the CPA decided that the consequences of privatizing or closing the SOEs in the midst of a growing insurgency were too risky. So the CPA did not privatize a single SOE and instead continued to pay the salaries of the all SOE employees, even of those "employed" at SOEs that were definitively closed.                              
The CPA's economic record has largely gone unreported.  In June 2004, when the CPA handed over to a sovereign Iraqi government, the economy was well on the way to recovery.    Oil production had been running at prewar levels for 10 months.  Bank deposits were  90% over May 2003 levels.  Electricity production was half again as high as prewar levels, though still far short of meeting demand.  Monthly inflation had been cut to only 2%.   And according to a massive study by the United Nations Development Programme, unemployment was just 10.5%.   A later study by the International Monetary Fund found that the Iraqi economy rebounded by over 46% in 2004.                          
*  * * * * * * * * * * *                             

Helping Iraq's Transition to Representative Government            

The major political goal of the Coalition was to help the Iraqis establish responsible representative government.  In this goal, the Coalition was pushing on an open door.  The remarkable turnout of Iraqis in four elections and one referendum since 2004 is conclusive evidence that Iraqis wanted to replace Saddam's tyranny with democracy.                 
The first step toward this goal was to deal with the overhang of Baath Party dictatorship.  Saddam's party had been the primary political instrument of repression.  Dissent and criticism of his rule were answered with summary brutality, torture and death.  The party, consciously modeled on Hitler's Nazi party, even recruited children to spy and report on their parents.          
The State Department's prewar plan, The Future of Iraq, recognized that "no member of the Baath party has any stature in the country" and urged that if Saddam were overthrown, steps should be taken "to ensure that Baathist ideology in whatever guise does not seep into the public realm" and to "block the appointment or promotion of any figure who has Baathist sympathies or loyalties of who expresses Baathist 'thought'".                
Consistent with this plan, on April 16, 2003, General Tommy Franks, commander of Coalition Forces, outlawed the Baath Party and its repugnant ideology.  No responsible official that I am aware of, in Washington or any other capital, nor in Iraq itself seriously suggested any other possibility.  It was clear that there would be some level of de-Baathification. The questions were:  how much and what would happen to Baathists.                     
Our intelligence estimated that the party had a membership of two and a half million.  The Coalition recognized that many Iraqis had joined the party, not out of conviction, but in order to get access to jobs or favors from Saddam's regime.     
So the Coalition's deBaathification decree was narrowly drawn in two respects.  First, it affected only the top one percent of party members.  Moreover, the only restriction placed on them was that they could not hold government jobs.  Thus even top party members were free to work in the private sector, to set up businesses or newspapers, to become farmers, etc.  Moreover the CPA authorized scores of exceptions even to this lenient policy, permitting many ranking Baathists to remain in high government positions.  The myth that deBaathification collapsed the Iraqi government is simply unsupported by the facts.                 
Although the CPA's policy was intended to target a small portion of party members, it was later abused by Iraqi politicians and became a political tool with large negative consequences.  In retrospect, it was a mistake for the CPA to devolve the implementation of the Debaathfication program to Iraqi politicians who then attempted to broaden the decree's effect.  It would have been wiser to have set up an Iraqi judicial panel to oversee implementation.  The difficulty three successive sovereign Iraqi governments have had wrestling with deBaathification illustrates the strong emotions Iraqis continue to have about the proper role for former Baath party members.            
The CPA moved quickly to get a responsible interim Iraqi government in place, working with the UN Secretary General's Special Representative to establish the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) in just two months.  This effort benefited greatly from the professional efforts of British members of the CPA under the able leadership of Ambassador Jonathan Sawers.   Hundreds of other able British officials including Ambassadors Greenstock, Sinnott and Richmond, participated in CPA activities over the next 14 months.                            
All CPA employees were volunteers.  They came from 25 different nations and worked long hard hours.  But the CPA was never adequately staffed.  At its best, the CPA had only 56% of its positions filled.                          
The IGC was afforded responsibility to oversee drafting a modern constitution for Iraq, a step that all Iraqi political leaders we consulted favored.  On September 1, 2003, the IGC also appointed Iraqi Ministers to run the Iraqi government. The CPA gave the Iraqi Ministers responsibility for the policies, personnel and budgets of their respective ministries.  I do not recall once overruling a decision by an Iraqi Minister.                            
After considerable internal debate, the IGC deadlocked over the process by which to draft a constitution.  The result was an agreement on November 15, 2003 that the Iraqis would draft an Interim Constitution as an essential step to regaining full sovereignty.   This document, the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) came into being in March 2004, after months of intense negotiations among Iraqis in which the CPA paid an essential and very active mediating role.               
The Interim Constitution was the CPA's most important contribution to Iraq's political future.  The law established the principles of democracy, individual rights and federalism on which Iraq's permanent constitution came to be based.     
The Interim Constitution laid the foundations for open, representative and legitimate government.  The document established the architecture of Iraq's government, based on the separation of powers, and a balance between the executive and legislative branches.  It also confirmed an independent judiciary and civilian control over the military.  The Interim Constitution established basic rights for all Iraqis, irrespective of gender, sect, religion or ethnicity.  It committed Iraq to the rule of law and set out principles such as the right of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, to confront his accusers and to have legal counsel.  Through the document recognized that the majority of Iraqis are Muslim, it confirmed the freedom of religion.         
This document gave Iraq the political structure and opportunity to remain a united, free and democratic country.  And although Iraq has been through very difficult times since 2004, the Iraqi people have remained committed to that structure.                     


The Coalition faced three enormous challenges in Iraq: providing security for Iraqi citizens; helping Iraq move toward representative government and helping them modernize their economy.               
The Coalition military had responsibility for security. This task was never adequately resourced throughout the CPA time.  Lack of security impinged on the CPA's ability to deliver in the other two areas.  Constant attacks on Iraq's fragile infrastructure complicated the task of restarting essential services.  Two leading members of the Governing Council were assassinated in office; others subjected to shootings, bombings and harassment.  The CPA itself lost staff to insurgent attacks and its work environment was far short of ideal.   
Despite these handicaps, and chronic understaffing, the historic record of the CPA's accomplishments is clear.  When the CPA left, Iraq's economy was rebounding smartly, not just from post war levels, but well beyond the prewar levels.  And by helping Iraqis draft a modern, liberal constitution, the CPA gave the Iraqi people the political structure to define a path to representative government, a path they have followed despite severe provocation by insurgents and terrorists.           
We've called Bremer out repeatedly over the years and our points of disagreement are a matter of record.  Due to that and due to the fact that the witness testimony against him during each day of public hearings at the Inquiry were covered in the snapshot, we'll let him have his say above without comment.  The Inquiry also met with Australia's Ambassador to the US Kim Beazley, John Bellinger (advised Bush and the NSC), Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction's Stuart Bowen and Ginger Cruz, Eliot Cohen, US Ambassador to Iraq (2007-2009) Ryan Crocker, Charles Duelfer (Iraq Survey Group), David Kay (Ibid), Gen David McKiernan, NSC's Franklin Miller, USAID's (2001-2005) Andrew Natsios, CPA's Meghan O'Sullivan, William Taft IV (State Dept legal adviser, 2000-2004), Philip Zelikow and French Ambassador to the US Pierre Vimont.
Khalid Farhan, Muhanad Mohammed and Michael Taylor (Reuters) report a Najaf bank was robbed today after at least one insider (a security guard) drugged his c-owrkers tea allowing robbers to make off with the US equivalent of $5.5 million. AP adds, "A policeman who was guarding the bank offered cups of tea laced with sleeping medication to four guards at the bank, knocking them out for the night, according to a local police and a bank official." In other violence, Alsumaria TV reports a Baquba bombing yesterday which left seven people injured. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Thursday Mosul mortar attack which left twelve people wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left three people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which left two people injured and, today, Baghdad home bombings "of two Sahwa members and one policeman" which left three bystanders wounded.
In the US, Brian Faler (Bloomberg News) notes, the Senate pushed through the war supplemental bill late last night on a 67 for and 28 against vote. The bill now goes to the House which will debate it sometime after their Memorial Day vacation.  At The Huffington Post, US House Rep Jan Schakowsky observes:
As of 10:06 on Sunday, May 30th, we will have spent $1 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A trillion dollars is a baffling amount of money. If you write it out, use twelve zeros. Even after serving in Congress for over a decade, I, like most Americans, still have a hard time wrapping my head around sums like this.
This month, we mark the seventh anniversary of President Bush's declaration of "mission accomplished" in Iraq, yet five American soldiers have been killed there in May alone. Iraqis went to the polls nearly three months ago, but the political system remains so fractured that no party has been able to piece together a coalition. There are some indications that sectarian violence is again on the rise.
The only clear winner of the Iraq war is Iran. Their mortal enemy, Saddam Hussein, was taken out and fellow Shiites are in charge. Iran has been emboldened to the point of threatening the stability of the region and the world with its growing nuclear capability.
And we'll close with this from Military Families Speak Out:

Contact: Nikki Morse, 347-703-0570,
Deborah Forter, 617-983-0710,

May 27, 2010, Nationwide -- This Memorial Day Weekend, Gold Star Families Speak Out members whose loved ones died as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Military Families Speak Out members who have a loved one who has previously served or is currently serving in Afghanistan or Iraq, can speak a truth Americans need to hear.

Celeste Zappala, a member of Gold Star Families Speak Out from Philadelphia, PA, whose son was killed in Iraq and was the first Pennsylvania National Guardsman to die in combat since World War II, said,

"With great sadness my family and I recognize Memorial Day and the 7 years since we last saw my son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker alive. On April 26, 2004 he died in an explosion while looking for the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. We are but one of the over 5,000 American families who mourn the loss of their loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan; physical and spiritual casualties affect thousands more - and yet the wars that kill our young and drain our treasure do not create peace. It is long past time to bring our troops home, and find real solutions for Peace."

Earlier this month, an ABC News /Washington Post poll found that a majority of Americans are again opposed to the Afghanistan war, with 52% saying it's not worth fighting.

Military Families Speak Out members Larry and Judy Syverson, of Richmond Virginia, said,

"We are the parents of three active duty sons. Our oldest son, Branden, is in Afghanistan with the Second Infantry (our family's sixth deployment in these wars). We are disheartened by Obama's foreign policy. With the 1,000th American soldier killed in Afghanistan this past week and war spending reaching $1 trillion on May 30th, 100,000 troops are in Afghanistan chasing an illusive target that has not made us safer in this country or closer to achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan. In poll after poll, the American people have repeatedly stated they want these wars to end. President Obama should honor the American people's wishes and end both wars and bring our troops home now."

Gold Star Families Speak Out members whose loved ones died as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Military Families Speak Out members who have a loved one who has previously served or is currently serving in Afghanistan or Iraq are available for interview over Memorial Day Weekend. To schedule an interview, contact Nikki Morse at or Deborah Forter at

ELSEWHERE IN THE COUNTRY: Members of Military Families Speak Out will also be participating in events around the country. To arrange for an interview, contact us at the information above.

Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) is a national organization of over 4,000 families who are opposed to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and have loved ones who serve or have served in the military since the fall of 2002. Gold Star Families Speak Out is a national chapter of MFSO with families whose loved ones died as a result of these wars.

For more information about Military Families Speak Out, please visit
For more information about the chapter Gold Star Families Speak Out see


$5.5 million bank robbery in Iraq

Khalid Farhan, Muhanad Mohammed and Michael Taylor (Reuters) report a Najaf bank was robbed today after at least one insider (a security guard) drugged his c-owrkers tea allowing robbers to make off with the US equivalent of $5.5 million. Alsumaria TV reports a Baquba bombing yesterday which left seven people injured. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Thursday Mosul mortar attack which left twelve people wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left three people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which left two people injured and, today, Baghdad home bombings "of two Sahwa members and one policeman" which left three bystanders wounded. Hannah Allem (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

Athab Jabbar, 70, runs a house of worship, so it tugs at his conscience that his gun-toting guards aren't licensed by the Iraqi government and that he isn't properly registered with the central Shiite Muslim religious authorities.
When he's tried to file the paperwork that would bring his small mosque into compliance with Iraqi law, however, the answer is always the same: Only after a new government is formed.
For hundreds of thousands of Iraqis such as Jabbar, the delay in seating a new government, which already has lasted nearly three months, has complicated everyday errands and added bureaucratic frustration to lives that are hard enough thanks to persistent violence and the lack of basic utilities.

[Note: Title originally -- and wrongly -- read "$5.5 billion bank robbery in Iraq" -- it should have been million. My mistake and my apologies.]
In Baghdad, Alsumaira TV reports, ongoing meetings are to take place between State Of Law and Iraqi National Alliance. March 7th, Iraq finished Parliamentary elections. In the time since, Nouri al-Maliki has made clear he will have to be forced out of the prime minister post. This despite the fact that his slate (State Of The Law) came in second, behind Iraqiya (Ayad Allawi's political slate). In the many weeks -- nearly three months worth -- since, al-Maliki has thrown up one roadblock after another while attempting to discredit Iraqiya's win. He's demanded recounts and was granted a Baghdad recount. The recount found the original count to be accurate. Two Iraqiya candidates have been assassinated -- one immediately prior to the election, one earlier this week. Other Iraqiya candidates have been targeted by Nouri's government and had to go into hiding. The alliance between State Of Law and Iraqi National Alliance has whispers of weakness, the Kurdish delegation is due in Baghdad as soon as votes are officially certified and whether they will be one solid bloc or not is only one of the many unanswered questions in the weeks and weeks since the elections.

In England, which held Parliamentary elections at the start of this month and is moving along with selecting their next prime minister, Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) broke the news of a suppressed report:

Highly critical comments by a senior army officer asked to conduct a study of the circumstances surrounding the invasion of Iraq have been suppressed on the orders of the country's top defence officials, the Guardian has learned.

The study, by Lt Gen Chris Brown, was commissioned in the light of mounting evidence of the failure to prepare properly for the invasion and its consequences.

Former senior military officers and defence officials have already described their anger and frustration about the failures in damning testimony to the Chilcot inquiry into the 2003 Iraq invasion. One of the inquiry's key objectives is to spell out the lessons that should be learned from what is widely regarded in Whitehall as an ill-conceived operation of dubious legality and, in foreign policy terms, a disaster comparable to the 1956 Suez crisis.

Thomas Harding (Telegraph of London) adds, "Lt Gen Brown was the last senior British officer in Baghdad in 2009 and was later made the 'Iraq study team leader'."

As noted, the UK held elections this month. It was a big loss for Labour. Gordon Brown's refusal to resign cost the party dearly and, for the first time in years, they will not be in control of Parliament. (The Liberal Democrats and the Tories have formed a coalition sharing agreement.) Various people are competing to lead Labour and one is Diane Abbott. BBC News reports:

Left-wing MP Diane Abbott has promised to fight cuts to the public sector as she officially launched her bid to become leader of the Labour Party.
The backbencher also said Labour had to admit that the Iraq War was a "mistake" before it could move on.

I'm not endorsing anyone -- I won't be voting in that election, there's no reason for me to endorse anyone and I've also known the Milibands for years (David's running and Ed says he is though I don't buy the latter as a serious run -- I could be wrong). But I do find it interesting that, for example, The New Statesman couldn't stop sticking its nose in the US 2008 election (and it was far from alone in England) and kept insisting (as did Gary Younge in numerous UK Socialist publications) that Barack Obama -- a bi-racial male -- must become president to wipe away racial stains (I'd call them crimes because that's what they were and not limited to slavery) of the past is strangely silent today.

Is the US the only country with racial stains? Is England, with all of its colonization and its own participation in the slave trade, somehow immune to racial stains?

Or is it -- most likely, this is it -- that a bigger load of weak ass s**t was never foisted off on the public than that lame nonsense ("Vote for Barry and the past is all wiped away!") and it was deployed exclusively for Barack and, as with everything else about the golden calf, would do nothing to improve the lives of any Black person? Diane Abbott may or may not be qualified for the post. I have no idea, I don't know her personally and knew little of her until this month. But I do know various British papers -- and various Brits -- such as 2008's Baby Cum Pants winner Richard Wolffe -- advanced an argument supposedly about race and they've never used it again to advance the career of any other politician.

Someone needs to try explaining that one.

TV notes, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Melinda Henneberger and Eleanor Holmes Norton on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's bonus is a discussion on the burqa and France's proposed legislation. this week it's Laura Bush's book where she states she pro-choice and pro-same-sex marriage. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers not one but two hours of programming:

  • 60 Minutes Presents: Gotti
    Sunday, May 30, 7 PM ET/PT

    Previously un-broadcast material about his life as the son of a mob boss will be featured in an hour-long interview with John Gotti, Jr. The special hour's new footage includes stories about his father, the late John "Teflon Don" Gotti, feelings about his privacy now and a look at his "Indian Room," a smoking room that doubles as shrine to famous Native Americans.

    Sunday, May 30, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

  • 60 Minutes Special Edition
    Sunday, May 30, 8 PM ET/PT

    The Deadliest Weapon
    Byron Pitts and "60 Minutes" cameras spend two days on the road with a bomb-hunting unit in Afghanistan as they encounter one deadly bomb after another.

    Resurrecting The Extinct
    Scientists believe they can sustain endangered species - maybe even one day resurrect some that have died out - using DNA technology. Lesley Stahl reports.

    Anna Wintour
    The sunglasses come off the high-queen of haute couture in this rare and unprecedented interview, in which the Vogue editor reveals why she always wears them and much more to Morley Safer in her first long-length interview for U.S. television.

    60 Minutes, Sunday, May 30, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio. Today on The Diane Rehm Show (airs on most NPR stations and streams live online beginning at 10:00 am EST), Diane is joined the first hour (domestic news roundup) by Susan Page (USA Today), Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) and Juan Williams (NPR). For the second hour (international news roundup), the guests are Elise Labott (CNN), Michael Hirsh (Newsweek) and David Sanger (New York Times). Also on radio, NPR's Morning Edition features a report on Josh Ritter:

Josh Ritter has spent the past decade writing and playing beautifully constructed folk music. But when it came time to work on his latest album, he says it felt like looking down the barrel of a lost 10 years.

"I had these nightmares about ending up basically singing medleys, which was just a terrifying thing," Ritter says.

There's a darker quality to So Runs the World Away, which covers themes of exploration, but Ritter says he had fun writing the album. For a story to be a story, he says, something has to go wrong.

"I wanted to build these little dollhouses and burn them all down," Ritter says. "I wanted to build something intricate and let them run around and maybe come to untimely ends."

At the link, you can listen to the story, continue reading it and stream Josh's new video "The Curse." Kat reviewed Josh's 2006 release Animal Years here. Click here for Josh's website.

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee continues to highlight the economy and finances in a number of videos this month. Click here to be taken to the DPC video page. And we'll note Senator Debbie Stabenow on unemployment insurance.

And we'll note Bonnie Erbe's "Is the Washington Post's News Sexist?" (US News & World Reports):

Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander had an interesting post on sexism at the institution he writes about. He gave several examples of recent pieces of writing in the paper which drew reader criticisms for gender bias. Most recently he cites a review by TV critic Tom Shales, known for his lavish use of language to take down TV programs with which he is not in love, of a news PBS public affairs program. (Full disclosure: I too host a PBS public affairs program) and an interview it aired with former President Bill Clinton.

Shales later apologized in an online chat for saying that the female co-anchor

looked as though she would have been much more comfortable in Clinton's lap.

Alexander went on to quote other Post references which may be found here.

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