Saturday, October 30, 2010

Arthur Brisband self-destructs in public, US pulls strings in Iraq

At the New York Times, Arthur Brisbane -- of the noted journalistic family, not of the Mel Brooks film, weighs in on the WikiLeaks issue but does so ill-prepared and slap dash. It's an embarrassment and we're noting that at the top and not playing favorites. It's embarrassing and it's shameful. Here's the most problematic section, the one undermines everything else Brisbane writes:

Thomas E. Ricks, author of "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq" and now contributing editor to Foreign Policy magazine, believes The Times put those in the field at great risk, with little public gain.
"What you have here is thousands of, basically, the equivalent of telephone logs, situation reports," he said. "These are not policy statements. These are not Rumsfeld ordered 'X.' It is one officer said this or heard this. It is the lowest form of information. It is crappy information being given a status it doesn’t deserve, and it carries great risk."

You want to be taken seriously? Don't come of like an idiot or a whore. It was incumbent upon Brisbane, now the public editor, to write an even-handed piece. He has not done that as the above excerpt demonstrates. Thomas E. Ricks is a public embarrassment at this late date but he can shout all the crazy he wants, few bother to listen.

Thomas E. Ricks' ravings aren't the issue themselves. The words aren't the issue.

The reason for them is. Tom-Tom Ricky isn't a reporter anymore, he's not even a journalist. He belongs to a think-tank. He belongs to the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) -- home to the homegrown terrorists in charge of counter-insurgency. Brisbane either doesn't know that fact or else he's whoring and hiding that fact. SO Tommy repeats the Pentagon says. That's surprising because? Michele Flournoy does what in the administration? She's the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (and being pushed as one of the leading nominees to replace Robert Gates when he leaves the post of Secretary of Defense). What did Michele start? Oh, that's right, she started CNAS. With Kurt Cambell, you know, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacifica Affairs. CNAS, Thomas Ricks? You don't think you need to identify his connections?


Again, it's either ignorance or it's whoring but, regardless, it discredits everything else in the article, it undermines everything. The identification should have been made by Brisbane, his failure to do so destroys every other word he wrote.

CNN reports that King Abdullah of Suaid Arabia is calling for Iraqi politicians to meet up in Saudia Arabia ("after the Hajj pilgrimage in November") to attempt to end the political stalemate. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) quotes the king stating, "It is well-known to everyone that you are at a crossroads, a fact that necessitates your uniting the ranks, rising above your wounds, distancing the shadows of differences, and extinguishing the fire of abhorrent sectarianism," said the king, as reported by SPA. Our hands are outstretched to you. Let us work together for the security, integrity and stability of the land and brotherly people of Iraq." Arab News adds, "He said the talks would be held under the auspices of the Arab League in order to seek solutions for all outstanding problems that stand in the way of forming a unity government in Baghdad, adding that it would be a good opportunity for reconciliation to restore Iraq’s security, peace and stability."

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 seven months and twenty-three days and still counting.

Nawzad Mahmoud and Rawa Abdulla (Rudaw) reports, "One of the major Kurdish political parties broke away from the larger Kurdish alliance on Friday evening, ending and undermining the united political representation of Kurds whose role is decisive to shape Iraq’s future government. By taking this decision, Gorran, the greatest and most influential opposition party in the northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan, deepens its political divergence with the two ruling parties over almost everything here in the most stable region of Iraq." Gorran -- "Change" -- is backed by the US and has received a huge amount of money from the US government. That detail is left out of the report but it is probably the most pertinent detail.

In today's violence, Reuters notes an Abu Ghraib attack in which 2 Iraqi soldiers were killed and five people injured, a Kirkuk drive-by in which one police officer was injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life, a Rashid grenade explosion which claimed the life of an 8-year-old boy and injured two members of his family and a Mosul roadside bombing which left three people injured.

Lastly, today's insanity in DC is nailed by Vast Left at Corrente.
The e-mail address for this site is

Rising death toll, WikiLeaks

Jack Healy (New York Times) reports, "The bomber detonated a belt of explosives, the police said, striking the cafe at its busiest hour, when it was bustling with young men sipping tea and smoking cigarettes. The blast blew body parts into the street and started what one survivor, Ahmed Khalis, described as a 'fountain of fire' inside the building." He's reporting on yesterday's Balad Ruz attack. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) explains, "People had been shooting pool in the cafe in the eastern town of Balad Ruz, midway between Diyala's capital, Baqubah, and the Iranian border, when the attacker set off his bomb. The building collapsed, and civil defense teams rushed to dig victims out, police 2nd Lt. Ali Rubaie said. Along with the rest of the neighborhood, the cafe was built after Shiite Kurds fled to Balad Ruz from the Iranian border at the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980. The cafe was the one place in the district where people could go to play pool or dominos, smoke water pipes and drink tea." Press TV notes that the death toll has risen to 30.

Meanwhile, 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.

In tomorrow's paper, the editorial board of the Boston Globe offers:

The United States is a party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture. As such, it has accepted an obligation not to employ torture and also not to transfer captives to anyone who may be expected to torture them. To violate this obligation is to make the American commitment to human rights look like sheer hypocrisy. Al Qaeda and like-minded jihadists, who exhibit scant regard for human rights, can be counted on to depict US complicity in torture in Iraq as proof that the “crusaders’’ hate Muslims.

The editorial's just more gutless nonsense from the paper that's going under. If that doesn't make clear, I can't go into more details because this is the topic reserved for Third. But read the editorial carefully and see if you can't figure it out for yourself. Here's your hint, if a transfer takes place -- as the Globe rightly notes it has -- and the transfer is to Iraqi forces -- again the Globe gets that right -- then what's left out? How about who did the transfer, who authorized it? It's been the flaw in all of the US 'reporting' and it should make US outlets a laughingstock around the world.

Global Research runs this release from the Ad Hoc Committee for Justice for Iraq:


To all victims of the US-UK invasion of Iraq and their families,

To all Iraqis,

To all Parties of the Genocide Convention, the Four Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention against Torture,

To all progressive lawyers, legal associations and institutions, parliamentarians, international civil servants, and everyone who supports legal action to ensure redress for Iraqi victims of US-UK crimes:

Just over a year ago, we submitted a legal case before the Audencia Nacional in Madrid under laws of universal jurisdiction against four US presidents and four UK prime ministers — George H W Bush, William J Clinton, George W Bush, Barack H Obama, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Anthony Blair and Gordon Brown — on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Iraq. This case was based on our analysis of hundreds of documents available in the public domain, along with firsthand witness testimony that informed our effort and our designation of US-UK actions as genocide.[1]

The essence of our case was that the accumulated pattern of harm, stretching over 19 years, revealed a clear and specific “intent to destroy”, in whole or in part, the state and nation of Iraq. We catalogued the purposive dismantling of the Iraqi state and the imposition, incitement and engineering of sectarian conflict. We also described the systematic destruction of Iraq’s civil infrastructure, added to the massive use of depleted uranium, which from 1990 onwards led to millions of excess deaths. We outlined the use of disproportionate and indiscriminate force, the use of internationally prohibited weapons such as white phosphorus, and the use of prohibited means and methods of warfare. And we identified the use of death squads and armed militias associated with political forces promoted by and protected by Washington, the terror that led to the forced mass displacement of five million Iraqis, and the institutionalised regime of mass and arbitrary detention and torture, along with blackmail, kidnapping, rape and unfair trials, that characterised Iraq under US occupation.

The Wikileaks disclosure

The near 400,000 classified documents that Wikileaks recently published substantiate the claims we made in our case and constitute official US evidence of elements of the case we presented: the existence in Iraq of a regime of systematic torture; rape used as a weapon of warfare and terror; incidence of arbitrary, summary and extrajudicial executions; the routine use by US armed forces of indiscriminate and disproportionate force; the alarming collapse of the division between military and civilian targets, with two thirds of the victims registered in the leaked documents being acknowledged as civilians. We will add these documents to our archive of evidence.

But these documents alone must be situated. While adding to the picture of the real war conducted, they do not contain it.

1. Inevitably, the leaked documents tell the story of the Iraq war from the perspective of — and within the confines of — the US military and its record-keeping practice. One cannot expect this practice to be anything but influenced by US Army culture and the operational goal of winning the war.

2. The leaked documents do not cover the actions of the CIA and other non-US Army agencies in the Iraq war, or similar agencies of foreign powers.

3. The leaked documents do not cover the role or actions of US security contractors, or mercenaries, in the Iraq war, which were granted legal immunity by the US occupation.

4. The leaked documents do not cover the role or actions of sectarian militias and death squads linked to foreign states and political forces in the US-sponsored and vetted political process, and that conducted campaigns of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity targeting Arab Sunnis, Turkmen, Christians, Yezidis, Sabeans, and Shabak as such, and even innocent Shia, in addition to the systematic assassination of middle class professionals.

5. The leaked documents provide raw data on day-to-day operations but do not contain information on the strategic planning or aims of the war.

6. The leaked documents only cover self-reported incidents, while the body count overall only encompasses the dead the US Army recovered.

7. The leaked documents do not collate the overwhelming bulk of the killing in Iraq, which involved militias incorporated into the new Iraqi Security Forces led by Iraq’s puppet governments — among which that of Nouri Al-Maliki — and for which the US, as the occupying power, is legally responsible.

8. The leaked documents do not cover the orchestrated plunder of national and individual property, individual appropriation of state property, arbitrary dismissal and refusal of work, and the mass non-payment of salaries and withdrawal of social rights. Nor do the documents shed light on the collapse of Iraq’s economy, and the consequent mass impoverishment and displacement of Iraqis.

9. The leaked documents do not cover non-violent excess deaths in Iraq, whether the result of the collapse of Iraq’s public health system, the contamination of Iraq’s environment, including by radioactive munitions, and the spread of disease amid the overall collapse of all public services, including provision of electricity, a functioning sewage system, and clean water.

10. The leaked documents do not shed any light on the trauma induced by the US-led war on individual Iraqis and the Iraqi nation as a whole.

Demand for legal action

At present, there is a full-scale damage limitation effort ongoing, headed by the US Pentagon and involving: attempts to focus attention away from the detail of the leaked documents and onto the founder of Wikileaks and his person; to focus attention on the failure to act against torture when it involved Iraqi police and paramilitary forces, ignoring US practices of torture or the culture of violence the US occupation has promoted overall (including by specifically training and arming death squads and militias); and to divert attention to the role of Iran while failing to contextualise the cooperative relation between the United States and Iran in the destruction of Iraq.

Despite US manoeuvres, the United States administration and the government of Iraq stand equally accused. Neither can be trusted to investigate the facts contained in the classified documents Wikileaks has brought into the public domain. Only action that invokes the universal jurisdiction of the conventions the US and Iraqi governments have violated in Iraq can be satisfactory and objective. And only by stepping back and reviewing the whole period, from 1990 through until now, can one adequately situate the Wikileaks Iraq War Logs and understand their importance.

Wikileaks has done a tremendous service to truth in times of war, and has placed before us raw evidence that is compelling, undeniable, and that tells — in part — the story of the Iraq war in a way until now untold. We salute Wikileaks and its sources for the courageous act of releasing the classified Iraq War Logs. We call on all lawyers, judges and juridical institutions to display equal courage, and in coalition to work towards the swift prosecution of US and UK war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Iraq. We believe that only by coordinated action can those responsible for grave crimes and rights violations in Iraq be held accountable.

We therefore call for the formation of an international coalition of lawyers, legal specialists and antiwar and anti-occupation progressive forces to realise this obligation.

We are ready to cooperate with and join any effort that aims to ensure redress and reparations for Iraqi victims of US and UK crimes.

There is no excuse now for failing to take legal action everywhere it is feasible, both at the national level — where the universal jurisdiction of international conventions permits — and beyond. But legal action must be informed by an analysis of the nature of the war as a whole, and by the testimony not only of the US Army, but also Arab and international solidarity groups and associations, and foremost the Iraqi people — the victims of the US-led war of aggression on Iraq.

Ad Hoc Committee for Justice for Iraq


We are not taking signatures for this call to action; rather we ask those with requisite skills to commit to building a new coalition to pursue legal action, which we also commit to join. Please inform us of your efforts, in the hope that together we can build towards effective legal action:

Dr Ian Douglas, coordinator of the International Initiative to Prosecute US Genocide in Iraq and member of the Executive Committee of the BRussells Tribunal

Hana Al Bayaty, member of the Executive Committee of the BRussells Tribunal and the International Initiative to Prosecute US Genocide in Iraq

Abdul Ilah Albayaty, political analyst and member of the Executive Committee of the BRussells Tribunal

Serene Assir, member of the Advisory Committee of the BRussells Tribunal

Dirk Adriaensens, member of the Executive Committee of the BRussells Tribunal


Global Research Articles by Ad Hoc Committee for Justice for Iraq

The following community sites -- plus Washington Week, IVAW and Cindy Sheehan --updated last night and today:

We'll close with this from the campaign of John Anthony La Pietra:

John Anthony La Pietra for
Fairer, Better Elections
Secretary of State * Green Party
386 Boyer Court * Marshall, MI 49068

** URGENT ** News Release: October 29, 2010

La Pietra Issues Corrected List of Candidates for Saginaw County
Clerk's Office Refused Requests to Finish Fixing List Posted on Website
or Delete Erroneous Sections and Give Voters a Link to State List

48 Counties Have Responded to Another of John's Efforts to Make
Elections Fairer and Better -- Full List of Write-In Candidates;
About Half with Local Candidates Have Provided Contact Info, Too

65 Counties Have Contributed to Voting-Conditions Survey Preparations

John Anthony La Pietra hasn't been elected Secretary of State yet -- but the Green Party of Michigan candidate is already at work making elections fairer and better for voters, candidates, and parties . . . particularly in Saginaw County.

The county clerk's office has refused to finish correcting its posted list of candidates:

or use a draft John sent them yesterday. So John is releasing the list to the press today and posting it on his Website, at:

Clerk's Office Said It Was Understaffed,
Couldn't Fix Its List -- So John Did It
Last week, while looking into the omission of Green candidates Dianne Feeley and Lou Novak from ballots in Wayne County, John noticed that the two Wayne County Commission candidates had also been left off the county's published online candidate lists.

So he did some checking of other counties' Websites -- and found some problems with Saginaw County's posted candidate list:

Though this list was dated "as of October 22", it was missing almost every partisan candidate who'd been nominated for the fall election -- before the August 3 primary -- by an alternative party.

(The site also had a full set of proof ballots posted -- showing all the candidates on the ballot for each local jurisdiction in the county. But the link to access those ballots was below the link for the candidate list.)

So he e-mailed County Clerk Susan Kaltenbach Friday afternoon (October 22) to let her know of the oversight and offer his help in fixing the list.

Kaltenbach's reply Monday morning said, "The minor party candidates will be added today. This information other than our local listings is still from the primary results. We usually do not add all of the State Candidates as they file and are listed by the Secretary of State. Again we are short staffed and have so much data entry that is beyond our required local that we sometimes do not have all of the State data."

John promptly pointed out a problem with this logic: "[T]he list as it is posted now makes it appear that the candidates you show are the only ones on the ballot." And voters and groups who relied on the list would "have been making decisions for the past six to ten weeks about whom to vote for -- or whom to invite to participate in activities and be considered for votes, endorsements, etc. -- based on the incomplete information posted."

He noted that other counties posted only "local" candidates on their Websites and provided a link to the statewide Bureau of Elections list to cover the non-local candidates.

Saginaw County's list was updated on Tuesday:

John was now on it, and so were some of his fellow Greens -- but not the Green Party gubernatorial ticket of Harley Mikkelson and Lynn Meadows. Another lieutenant governor candidate was also omitted, and a mix-up left three candidates labeled as Libertarians in the race for the 5th District seat in Congress, including one who was a Libertarian candidate -- but in the 4th District.

And the races for the four statewide boards -- the State Board of Education, the U-M Board of Regents, the MSU Board of Trustees, and the Wayne State University Board of Governors -- were missing from the county's list entirely. The nominally non-partisan race for two seats on the state Supreme Court was mentioned -- but none of the five candidates were listed.

John documented these omissions and corrections, hoping to help Kaltenbach get past her office's short-staffing situation and solve the problems. She answered: "There are plenty of other places for the voters to get this info. We concentrate on getting the locals and the ones we take filings for locally on the site as they do not appear in other places."

John's response to that thanked Kaltenbach for her efforts so far, but pointed out:

The people of Saginaw County have a right to rely on you to be
authoritative about their ballots -- to rely on the candidate list
posted on your Website, and any other information you put out about
the election for public consumption, to be accurate and complete.

"This candidate list," he went on, "has been misinforming voters since it was posted" -- and time was running out to fix it.

Wednesday morning, a further update of the list had been posted -- and minor updates were again posted yesterday morning and today. The latest posted list is still missing all reference to the education-board races, and all candidates running for Supreme Court Justice. All partisan candidates for other state and federal offices are now included, but there are two errors:

* Albert Chia, Jr. is a Libertarian candidate for State Senate
from the 32nd District, not for the 4th District Congressional

* And J. Matthew de Heus is the Green Party's candidate in the
5th Congressional District, not a second Libertarian in that

John tried to help Saginaw County make up for lost time and shortness of staff time by preparing a corrected list himself. He took the posted county list, added missing candidate information from the official state list posted by the Bureau of Elections:

formatted the information to match the county's format, and sent it to

Kaltenbach as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file. He has received no response, and his draft list was neither posted itself nor used to finish correcting the county's posted list.

So John is posting his corrected version of the list -- which he updated today to include whatever changes may have been made in the county's posted list between yesterday and today. And he is notifying the media, in hopes that the accurate information will get to voters.

John reminds everyone that the county has also posted proof ballots -- and those do seem to be reliable. They are accessible from this page:

"But the first link people who go to the county's homepage will see is to the candidate list," he adds. "And that list, four days before the election, is still incomplete and wrong."

For updated details of John's correspondence with the Saginaw County Clerk's Office on this issue, visit

Treating Write-In Candidates as More
Than Just "Mickey Mouse" Protest Votes
48 counties and the Bureau of Elections have contributed some information to another of John's "Fairer, Better Elections" projects: a comprehensive list of "official" write-in candidates:

And about half of the counties which have some "local" write-in candidates have provided contact information for those candidates as well.

State law was changed in 2006 so that poll workers would no longer have to count literal "Mickey Mouse" write-in votes . . . only votes for real people who had filed the required Declaration of Intent form.

"There's a big controversy in the Alaska courts right now," notes John.

"Incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who lost in the primary, is now running a write-in campaign trying to keep her seat. And the state Division of Elections has been offering early voters a list of all write-in candidates if the voters ask for it. But the state Republican Party sued to stop the Division from doing that -- and the Democrats have joined them.

"Here in Michigan," John adds, "state law says each precinct has to have a list of all officially declared write-in candidates. Otherwise the election inspectors wouldn't know whose votes they should and shouldn't count."

But under the current administration’s interpretation, the names on those lists aren’t available to voters at the polls. The list isn’t posted next to that sample ballot that's always up on the wall, as you might expect it to be. And if you ask the election inspectors at your polling place, they’re not allowed to tell you who's running as a write-in. You'd have to go to your local clerk’s office and ask there. “And who gets out of line to go do that?” John asks rhetorically.

John believes this is unfair to those candidates -- and it’s unfair to deny voters information about all of their choices. That's why he's compiling the list page and posting it on his campaign Website.

He hopes to hear from the rest of the counties on this, too -- and maybe from some write-ins as well. If they have additional contact information they want John to post -- addresses, phone numbers, e-mails, home pages -- they can contact him.

Survey of Voting Conditions:
Precinct Information from Clerks
The turnout is even better on John's call for lists of precincts, figures on how many voters are registered in each precinct, and where the polling places are. 65 out of 83 county clerks have now responded.

He hopes the rest of the information comes in before he starts getting voting-conditions survey results from voters in the 5,050 precincts across Michigan on and after Election Day.

"When we put the information from the clerks and the observations of the people together," John says, "we'll have a powerful tool for analyzing and planning the equipping and staffing of polling places better and more fairly -- giving us shorter lines and more time to vote.”

Voters who want to know how their clerks responded to this request so far can see an updated status report on John’s campaign Website at

John’s initial request to the clerks is also on line, at

And a copy of the survey sheet for individual voters to take with them to the polls November 2 is posted at

# # #

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends

Friday, October 29, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Friday, October 29, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Balad Ruz is slammed with a bombing, the New York Times launches a new attack on WikiLeaks and tries to pollute the minds of America's children, the political stalemate continues and more.
AFP reports a Balad Ruz bombing has claimed the lives of at least 25 people with seventy more listed as injured according police Chief Ahmed al-Tamimi.  Press TV notes that the bombing was in a coffee house and that "[s]ome reports suggest that the attack targeted a gathering of local residents inside the building."  BBC News notes that "area is said to be home to many Shias of Kurdish origin."  Al Jazeera adds, "Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Baghad, said authorities imposed a curfew in Balad Ruz, and that five people have been arrested." Muhanad Mohammed, Wathiq Ibrahim, Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Alison Williams (Reuters) report, "The cafe, a popular venue for playing dominoes, smoking sisha pipes and drinking sweet tea, was desroyed, said Colonel Kadhim bashir Saleh, a spokesman in Baghdad of Iraq's civil defence force."  And they quote eye witness Sadeq Abbas stating, "I was near the cafe and suddenly a big explosion happened inside and there was chaos in the area.  Security forces started shooting in the air to disperse the crowd and prevent people from going near the cafe." Mazin Yahya (AP) notes that the it is said to have been a suicide bomber.
Earlier this week on Antiwar Radio (Wednesday), Scott Horton interviewed journalist and historian Gareth Porter.  We'll note this at the very end of the interview.
Gareth Porter: The one thing that I would underline that I was shakiest on was the belief that the SOFA, the agreement that was reached in November of 2008, was something that could be expected -- could be counted on to stick.  I'm no longer confident that that's the case.
Scott Horton: Wow.  Well now, talk about opening a can of worms up.  What you're saying is that the war will start again because Moqtada al-Sadr isn't backing down on that?  You're just saying the Pentagon is going to insist on staying?
Gareth Porter: I'm saying, I'm saying that I'm not at all confident the US troops are going to get out.  That's right.  I think there's a grave danger that we're going to get stuck there.
Scott Horton: Which means fighting against the government we just spent all this time installing.  But you know --
Gareth Porter: Well I don't know. Maybe we're going to be fighting Kurds, maybe we're going to be fighting Turks?  You know, who knows? Who knows who we'll be fighting? But I do think -- I have very good reason to believe that this is a serious danger at this point.  That the Obama administration is going to try to pull another "Oh yeah, we're pulling all of our combat troops out, see?  These are not combat troops.  Nothing to see here move on."
Gen George Casey is Chief of Staff of the Army and he gave a speech earlier this week. What's interesting is the way the army elected to write it up. Here's the opening paragraph from the army's press release (that they would call a "news article"):

Soldiers can look forward to increased time at home station when the Army has all but completely pulled out of Iraq, leaving a larger pool of units free to do rotations in Afghanistan. But those rotations will continue for a some time, said the Army's top Soldier.

"Can look forward to" casts this sometime in the near future and, according to the army's press release, at that point the US will not be out of Iraq, it will have "all but completely pulled out of Iraq". It's an interesting word choice. Especially coming on the heels of the US State Dept's acknowledgment that the White House is "open" to extending the SOFA and keeping 50,000 US troops in Iraq beyond 2011. From Monday's snapshot:
Today Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation) reports that former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker spoke last week to the National Council on US - Arab Relations and " that when the dust clears in the formation of a new government in Iraq that Baghdad would come to the United States to ask for an extension of the US military presence beyond the end of 2011. By that date, according to the accord signed in 2008 by the Bush administration, all US troops are to leave Iraq. But Crocker said that it is 'quite likely that the Iraqi government is going to ask for an extension of our deployed presence'."  (He also expressed that Nouri would remaing prime minister.  Why?  The US government backed Nouri as the 'continuing' prime minister after Nouri promised he's allow the US military to remain in Iraq past 2011.) Today at the US State Dept, spokesperson Philip J. Crowley was asked about Crocker's remarks.  He responded, "Well, we have a Status of Forces Agreement and a strategic framework. The Status of Forces Agreement expires at the end of next year, and we are working towards complete fulfillment of that Status of Forces Agreement, which would include the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of next year. The nature of our partnership beyond next year will have to be negotiated. On the civilian side, we are committed to Iraq over the long term. We will have civilians there continuing to work with the government on a range of areas – economic development, rule of law, civil society, and so forth. But to the extent that Iraq desires to have an ongoing military-to-military relationship with the United States in the future, that would have to be negotiated. And that would be something that I would expect a new government to consider. [. . .] Should Iraq wish to continue the kind of military partnership that we currently have with Iraq, we're open to have that discussion."
During the Antiwar Radio interview, Gareth Porter discussed the WikiLeaks release and the "Report Shows Drones Strikes Based on Scant Evidence" (IPS via Information Clearing House) -- which is his reporting on the leaks.  Last Friday, 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.
On the topic of WikiLeaks, a correction for yesterday when I was grossly wrong. A friend was the first to reach me and say, "Was it a joke?" No, I honestly thought ZNet was published (and I thought it had its servers) in Canada. I was wrong, 100% wrong, completely wrong. (See today's snapshot.) My mistake. No one else's. I will be wrong many times again as I was in the snapshot today. I'll include this in tomorrow's snapshot to correct my error. My apologies for my error.  We were noting ZNet because they stood alone among independent media in actually covering the WikiLeaks release.  They are an American publication (again, I was wrong) and this is some of their WikiLeaks coverage:
There are many ways that the documents can be covered.  Ian Alln ( covers the CIA angle and how the US documents can be used to chart the CIA's role in the ongoing war.  Sitting down with McClatchy Newspaprs' Sahar Issa, The Real News Network's Paul Jay addressed the civilian death toll.
JAY: So let's talk a little bit about WikiLeaks. There are various pieces of the documents that jumped out, but the one a lot of people have been talking about is the numbers of civilian deaths, over 100,000. How have Iraqis reacted to all of this?
ISSA: Iraqis know this. Iraqis know that they have lost hundreds of thousands.

JAY: So people think the number is low.
ISSA: Iraqis know this. Iraqis know that they have lost hundreds of thousands.

JAY: So people think the number is low.
"To the disgust of many, both Iraq's new leaders and the world as a whole lent a deaf ear to such crimes, shutting their eyes to accounts of atrocities and refusing to investigate reports of intimidation, abuse and killings," Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) observes, noting, as Issa does, what Iraqis knew and what the media and governments didn't want discussed. "However, by giving a fuller picture of the US legacy in Iraq through its leaking of secret American military documents detailing torture, summary execution and war crimes, Wikileaks has both done truth a great service and has proved, once again, that truth is the first casualty of war." Watching America translates an editorial on the topic from Spain's El Pais:
The new leaks from WikiLeaks furnish conclusive proof concerning the cesspool of a war like Iraq, undertaken for motives increasingly seen to have been foolish in the extreme and carried out with a brutality that was in complete contradiction to the propagation of democracy invoked by Bush and his Azorean colleagues* as a justification for war. If the strongest argument against the invasion was that democracy could not be imposed on another country by force of arms, the new leaks from WikiLeaks make it necessary to add a corollary which, until now, might have seemed obvious: even less by means of torture, rape or indiscriminate slaughter of civilians. An end, such as democracy, does not justify such execrable means.
Allan Gerson (Huffington Post) probes another area of the released documents:
For example, the WikiLeaks documents released last week made clear, said the Vice President of the European Parliament, Dr. Alejo Vidal Quadras, that the Obama Administration knew that Iran was rapidly "gaining control of Iraq at many levels" even while it overruled objections not to turn over to Iraqi forces control of Camp Ashraf, an enclave 40km. north of Baghdad where approximately 3500 Iranian dissidents are quartered. Hundreds of parliamentarians in the US, Europe and the Middle East had pointed out that transfer to Iraqi control might lead to mass executions were the Camp Ashraf dissidents forcefully repatriated to Iran by Iraqi leaders anxious to placate Iran.
Nevertheless, the Obama Administration turned Camp Ashraf over to Iraqi forces without ever revealing a material fact: that the rush for "engagement" with Iran was bought at the price of psychological torture of Camp Ashraf's residents, repeated forays, and shooting sprees that killed and maimed hundreds of dissidents. Despite the outrage voiced in many quarters, the intimidation, coercion and atrocities have only been put on hold, in abeyance, ready to be resurrected in full at a more propitious moment. To rectify the situation and avert another tragedy, the US should resume protecting Ashraf or at least ensure that a UN monitoring team is stationed there.
Countless American citizens and their representatives in Congress acquiesced to "engagement" with Iran on false premises. The Obama Administration's readiness to turn a blind eye to the fate of Camp Ashraf's 3500 residents is now public information, in large measure through the release of the WikiLeaks documents. As the price of "engagement" with Iran has been revealed, it is up to the American populace and its representatives in Congress to determine if they are willing to acquiesce in the politics of appeasement -- not least, through the abandonment of Iran's most stalwart opponents.
Steve Fake (Foreign Policy In Focus) dissects the ways in which information that threatens the power-structure is attacked including:
The other tactic employed by opinion shapers, coming to the foreground in light of the extensive redactions of the Iraq documents, is to smear the messenger. The reader of the American press cannot help but be struck by one thought while reading the various reports discussing Assange's reputed authoritarianism and psychological health, the molestation charges he faces, and the factional strife at WikiLeaks: the allegations are of virtually no public policy significance.  They amount to scarcely more than gossip fodder. 
One attacker has been Miss Susan Hayward of 2010, John F. Burns.  And we addressed him at length last night. And while it may seem hard to top a man who co-writes a 2014 word article and then requires 1287 to defend it, the New York Times found some others ready to 'play.'  For the record, my kids are out of school (they're adults now) but had they come home with the 'lesson' 'plan' that Shannon Doyne and Holly Epstein Ojalova pen for the New York Times, those two 'teachers' would not be employed at the school anymore.  I'd start by noting that neither appears to have majored in education (they're English majors -- English majors -- at last, a group even drama majors can laugh at).  Were they emergency certified or did they have a waiver because they're training -- such as it is -- does not qualify them for the subect (the release of government documents) or for preparing a lesson plan or unit. They're not qualified.  (Holly has an MA in English lit education.  No, it's not the same thing but a friend at the paper insisted that be noted.)
Then there's the crap they churned out.  As a parent, I was never bothered if a side of an argument is presented . . . provided more than one side was presented.  There's only one side presented in Shannon and Holly's bad lesson: Government right. 
These two . . . women would have been out of jobs, I'm not joking. Teachers are expected to be fair and there is nothing fair about what Shannon and Holly designed.  Here's there basics:
* have kids brainstorm documents a government might keep on war
* have them focus on the Pentagon, DoD, CIA, etc.
And on it goes.  As you scan through, you may wonder when they take the position of human rights attorneys, of peace activists, of a soldier struggling with the issues, etc.?  The answer is never. They are asked to think about "What percentage of the documents do you think could pose a threat if they fell into an enemy's hands? What could happen if these documents were made public?" When do they get asked to think about the public's right to know?  NEVER.  When do they get asked to think about open government and how it is needed in a democracy?  NEVER.
The exercises put the students -- intentionally -- into roles at DoD, the CIA and the Pentagon.  That's intentional not accidental.  I would not tolerate this S**T if my child brought it home.  It would offend my politics, yes, but it would offend me most of all for being so damn one-sided and for my children being held hostage to some illegimate and unqualifed teacher's doctrine.
The exercise insists students 'learn' of Julian Assange -- late in the lesson plan -- by reading the hit-job John F. Burns co-wrote.  Why?  What is the purpose of that?  It's not about Julian Assange.
Look at the questions the children will address:
  1. How many secret documents about the war in Iraq did WikiLeaks release? The war in Afghanistan?
  2. Why are some of Mr. Assange's comrades abandoning him?
  3. Who is Daniel Ellsberg, and why does he consider Julian Assange a "kindred spirit"?
  4. Why did Mr. Assange initially go to Sweden, and why did he flee shortly thereafter?
  5. How does Mr. Assange describe the United States in regard to democracy? Do you agree or disagree?
Look at questions two, four and five and explain to me what an American child 'learning' about Julian from the smear piece by Burnsie isn't going to be likely to side against Julian?  These questions are chosen to plant the seeds of distrust in and hostility towards Julian.  They are the education equivalent of push-polling.  They show a motive on the part of the design and that -- along with the lack of educational training -- would ensure that the teachers would be hitting the road and looking for employment in another field (judging by the piece they wrote, they'd probably inquire as to whether there were any openings for torturers at Guantanamo).
And then the point of the lesson:
Is WikiLeaks heroic or villainous for releasing these documents? (Alternatively, you might temper such a stark question by softening the wording slightly, like so: "Is WikiLeaks a force for good or an instigator of trouble?")
Where are the questions about the government?  Where are the questions about the actions in the paper themselves?  They've created quite a little fact-free world where there are no values and are no ethics there is just an excercise that has them pretend (over and over) that they are the government, briefly 'informs' them of a one Whistleblower via an attack piece, pays a passing nod to Daniel Ellsberg (the lesson plan contains no real unit on Daniel) and then wants to ask for a judgment that will be cast in good or evil. 
This isn't teaching, this indoctrination.  Should your children's school use it, raise bloody hell.  No school should use this crap.  It's one-sided and the educational equivalent of smut.  The New York Times should be ashamed of themselves.  While they regularly pull their stunts on readers, now they want to contaminate the minds of children? 
John F. Burns is a piece of trash.  But his attack on Julian?  It was the equivalent of the town drunk hurling charges in the public square.  What the New York Times is attempting now is far more damage and the sort of thing you'd be more likely to encounter in a lesson plan catering to Hitler Youth.
Meanwhile Duraid Al Baik (Gulf News) reports that Iraqi "human rights activists are worried that a rising number of crimes against humanity in Iraq will not be documented unless the current government of Nouri Al Maliki steps down."
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 seven months and twenty-two days and still counting.
Meanwhile Najba Mohammed (Rudaw) notes, "Although Iraq's budget for the 2011 fiscal year is estimated at nearly $86 billion, the anticipated delay in approving it by parliament is expected to negatively affect reconstruction projects across the country including the autonomous Kurdistan Region in the north. Around $10 billion of the estimated budget is expected to go to the coffers of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)." When your newly elected Parliament's only met once -- and for less than 20 minutes at that -- it can be difficult getting a budget approved.  Commenting on the stalemate, the San Angelo Standard-Times' editorial board states, "There was some thought that the leak of nearly 400,000 classified U.S. documents bearing on Iraq might galvanize the parliament into action with its revelations of the torture and killing of civilians, especially Sunnis, by the security services and of meddling in Iraq's internal affairs by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. Al-Maliki, who was in titular charge of the security services during the worst of the sectarian violence, said that the release was an attempt to discredit his bid for a second term. And the Sunnis renewed demands that the implicated services be disbanded. But most lawmakers, like most Iraqis, perhaps inured to violence, seemed unfazed by the revelations."
Back to the US and Gen Casey's remarks we were dealing with at the top.  In his speech, Casey waxed on about the "longterm" war "we" are in with "violent extremism." Someone needs to ask Casey, when did the American people make the decision that they wanted that? Or that they could financially afford it? Or that bombing and killing doesn't breed violent response? When did they decide to throw out every bit of political science and every study on the nature of violence and 'think' up a 'plan' of bullying and cowing the world? No one will ask that anymore than they will challenge Adm Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when again refers to the Iraq War as a "success" for the US military. By what standards? By the fact that unlike England as summer faded in 2006, they didn't have to abandon a base that was stripped to the ground by Iraqis within 12 hours of the British military fleeing?  As Michael Hughes (Examiner -- link has text and video) reports today, Noam Chomsky doesn't see US having 'success' in Iraq by any means that an empire could point to and say, "See there!"  Hughes quotes Chomsky:
Iraq is an interesting case because it was a defeat. U.S. goals were defeated in Iraq, very important fact. At the beginning there were of course all sorts of pretexts, "they're tied with Al Qaeda", "weapons of mass destruction", when that collapsed there was a new pretext "we're bringing democracy". The U.S. in fact fought democracy every step of the way. It tried to prevent elections, and when it couldn't prevent them it tried to manipulate them.
By 2008 when it was pretty clear the U.S. was not going to achieve its goals, the Bush administration made strong significant declarations in which they discussed what the outcome must be, and what they said it must include was the U.S. right to use military bases in Iraq indefinitely as a base for combat and other operations and privileged access to Iraqi energy resources for U.S. corporations. At that point it was said pretty explicitly because they were getting pretty desperate.
Well they didn't get either of those because the United States had not been able to suppress Iraqi nationalism. The U.S. could kill any number of insurgents that wasn't a big problem but what they couldn't deal with was the mass popular non-violent resistance.  The U.S. was defeated. But it's clear what the war aims were, they were sensible aims.

TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Dan Balz (Washington Post), Jeanne Cummings (Politico), Major Garrett (National Journal) and Jeff Zeleny (New York Times) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "The End of Prognostication: 5 Questions for Election Night." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Avis Jones-DeWeever, Angela McGlowan, Sabrina Schaeffer and Amanda Terket to discuss the week's news on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is on attempts to win over women voters. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast airs Fridays on most PBS stations: "The security of the voting system; modern gerrymandering; California's Proposition 23, which would suspend the state's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Also: Rebecca Traister and Melissa Harris-Perry discuss the number of female candidates in 2010." And for those confused, Lie Face Harris-Lacewell got married and, like a complete idiot, has again tacked on a spouse's last name to her own. (I'm long on record in believing that you NEVER change your professional name and have noted a very good friend whose marriage ended decades ago and has happily remarried but is still stuck with her ex-husband's last name due to the fact that she changed her professional name after marriage number one.) Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Newton, Iowa
Scott Pelley reports from Newton, Iowa, where the closing of an appliance factory is causing a negative effect on the community's economy.


Tax The Rich
David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's budget director who once preached tax cuts,

is now in favor of putting a one-time surtax on the rich. Lesley Stahl reports and finds just such a proposal on the ballot in the state of Washington. | Watch Video


If Zenyatta wins the Breeder's Cup Classic next week to cap an undefeated

career of 20 straight victories, some say the 6-yr.-old mare might just be the greatest thoroughbred race horse in history. Bob Simon reports. | Watch Video



60 Minutes, Sunday, Oct. 31, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Earlier this week, we noted a portion of an HRW release and I promised we'd try to get it in a snapshot in full so we'll close with this release Human Rights Watch issued Sunday:

The Iraqi government should investigate credible reports that its forces engaged in torture and systematic abuse of detainees, Human Rights Watch said today. Hundreds of documents released on October 22, 2010, by Wikileaks reveal beatings, burnings, and lashings of detainees by their Iraqi captors. Iraq should prosecute those responsible for torture and other crimes, Human Rights Watch said.
The US government should also investigate whether its forces breached international law by transferring thousands of Iraqi detainees from US to Iraqi custody despite the clear risk of torture. Field reports and other documents released by Wikileaks reveal that US forces often failed to intervene to prevent torture and continued to transfer detainees to Iraqi custody despite the fact that they knew or should have known that torture was routine.
"These new disclosures show torture at the hands of Iraqi security forces is rampant and goes completely unpunished," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "It's clear that US authorities knew of systematic abuse by Iraqi troops, but they handed thousands of detainees over anyway."
The 391,831 documents released by Wikileaks, mostly authored by low-ranking US officers in the field between 2004 and 2009, refer to the deaths of at least six detainees in Iraqi custody. The reports also reveal many previously unreported instances in which US soldiers killed civilians, including at checkpoints on Iraq's roads and during raids on people's homes.
The documents indicate that US commanders frequently failed to follow up on credible evidence that Iraqi forces killed, tortured, and mistreated their captives. According to the documents, US authorities investigated some abuse cases, but much of the time they either ignored the abuse or asked Iraqis to investigate and closed the file. In one incident on January 2, 2007, Iraqi security forces took detainees to an abandoned house and beat them, resulting in a death. The report stated, "As Coalition Forces were not involved in the alleged abuse, no further investigation is necessary."
Even when US officials reported abuse to Iraqi authorities, the Iraqis often did not act. In one report, an Iraqi police chief told US military inspectors that his officers engaged in abuse "and supported it as a method of conducting investigations." Another report said that an Iraqi police chief refused to file charges "as long as the abuse produced no marks."
The documents reveal extensive abuse of detainees by Iraqi security forces over the six-year period.
In a November 2005 document, US military personnel described Iraqi abuse at a Baghdad facility that held 95 blindfolded detainees in a single room: "Many of them bear marks of abuse to include cigarette burns, bruising consistent with beatings and open sores... according to one of the detainees questioned on site, 12 detainees have died of disease in recent weeks."
On June 16, 2007, US soldiers reported that Iraqi forces interrogated and tortured a terrorism suspect by burning him with chemicals or acid and cutting off his fingers. According to the Wikileaks file, "Victim received extensive medical care at the Mosul General Hospital resulting in amputation of his right leg below the knee[,] several toes on his left foot, as well as amputation of several fingers on both hands. Extensive scars resulted from the chemical/acid burns, which were diagnosed as 3rd degree chemical burns along with skin decay."
In a case reported on December 14, 2009, the US military received a video showing Iraqi Army officers executing a bound detainee in the northern town of Talafar: "The footage shows [Iraqi] soldiers moving the detainee into the street, pushing him to the ground, punching him, and shooting him."
In at least two cases, postmortems revealed evidence of death by torture. On December 3, 2008, a sheikh who a police chief claimed had died from "bad kidneys" in fact was found to have "evidence of some type of unknown surgical procedure on [his] abdomen. The incision was closed by 3-4 stitches. There was also evidence of bruises on the face, chest, ankle, and back of the body."
On August 27, 2009, a US medical officer found "bruises and burns as well as visible injuries to the head, arm, torso, legs and neck" on the body of another detainee. Police claimed the detainee had committed suicide while in custody.
The disclosures by Wikileaks come almost six months after Human Rights Watch interviewed 42 detainees who had been tortured over a period of months by security forces at a secret prison in the old Muthanna airport in West Baghdad. The facility held about 430 detainees who had no access to their families or lawyers. The prisoners said their torturers kicked, whipped, and beat them, tried to suffocate them, gave them electric shocks, burned them with cigarettes, and pulled out their fingernails and teeth. They said that interrogators sodomized some detainees with sticks and pistol barrels. Some young men said they were forced to perform oral sex on interrogators and guards and that interrogators forced detainees to molest one another. Iraqi authorities have still not prosecuted any officials responsible.
Between early 2009 and July 2010, US forces transferred thousands of Iraqi detainees to Iraqi custody. International law prohibits the transfer of detained individuals to the authorities of another state where they face a serious risk of torture and ill-treatment.
"US authorities have an obligation not to transfer any of the 200 or so detainees still in their custody to Iraqi forces or to anyone else who might mistreat them," said Stork. "The US should also make sure those detainees already transferred are not in a dungeon somewhere currently facing torture."
At a Pentagon news conference on November 29, 2005, Gen. Peter Pace, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded to a question about Pentagon guidance in situations where US commanders witness abuse by Iraqi forces, saying, "It is absolutely the responsibility of every US service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it." Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who was also on the podium, intervened and said: "But I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it's to report it." Pace responded, "If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it."
A reporter then asked Rumsfeld if it was his sense that alleged Iraqi abuses were not widespread. Rumsfeld responded that he did not know.
"It's obviously something that the -- General Casey and his troops are attentive to and have to be concerned about," Rumsfeld told the reporter. "It -- I'm not going to be judging it from 4,000 miles away -- how many miles away?"