to no real surprise, israel ignored the united nations and there has been no cease-fire. this is from reuters:

The Israeli military said it carried out more than 70 air strikes in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Friday against militants, rocket launching sites and weapons caches, and that the Islamist group fired at least 30 rockets across the border.
Medical officials in the Gaza Strip said the Palestinian death toll had risen to 784. Hamas officials said more than a third were children. Ten Israeli soldiers have been killed, as well as three civilians hit by Hamas rocket fire.

that death toll is an undercount. even npr was talking about the over 800 today and npr does not go out on a limb for the palestinians ever. 1 incident today saw mass deaths. this is from donald macintyre, said ghazali and fares akram's 'Massacre of a family seeking sanctuary' (independent of london):

Bitterly cold, famished, and thirsty they may have been. But the dozens of men, women, children and elderly of the extended Samouni family, sheltering in the unfinished warehouse-like building owned by one of their relatives, at least felt relatively secure.
Some explain that Israeli troops had explicitly told them to remain in the building – in several cases after actually escorting them there. They were relieved to wake to find the neighbourhood quiet for the first time since the ground offensive had began 36 hours earlier. So much so, according to one of them, that some time after 6am, four of the men decided to set out and bring an uncle and his family to their refuge.
It was then, survivors say, that the greatest of all the horrors visited on the Zeitoun district of eastern Gaza City occurred. A shell hit the little group, killing 27-year-old Muhammad instantly, and injuring the other three still lingering at the door.
According to 19-year-old Maysaa, a second shell or missile fell on the building's roof with such force that she would in hindsight assume it came from an Israeli F-16. At the time she lay down with her nine-month-old daughter Jumana under her, listening to the screams of those around her, as the structure filled with smoke and dust. When the smoke began to clear, she looked around and saw what she says were between 20 and 30 bodies, and 20 wounded. The dead included her own husband Tawfiq, her father-in-law Rashed, who "was hit in the head and whose brain was on the floor", and a five-month-old baby "whose whole brain was outside his body".

now a lot of realities get left out of the 'news'. if you're looking for a primer on the basics, information clearing house has a documentary by john pilger. from 'Palestine is Still the Issue:'

Why Has This Documentary, Never Been Broadcast On U.S. Media ?
Twenty-five years ago, I made a film called Palestine Is Still The Issue. It was about a nation of people - the Palestinians - forced off their land and later subjected to a military occupation by Israel. An occupation condemned by the United Nations and almost every country in the world, including Britain.
But Israel is backed by a very powerful friend, the United States. So in 25 years, if we're to speak of the great injustice here, nothing has changed. What has changed is that the Palestinians have fought back.
Stateless and humiliated for so long, they've risen up against Israel's huge military machine, although they themselves have no arm, no tanks, no American planes and gun ships or missiles.
Some have committed desperate acts of terror, like suicide bombing. But for Palestinians, the overriding, routine terror, day after day, has been the ruthless control of almost every aspect of their lives, as if they live in an open prison. This film is about the Palestinians and a group of courageous Israelis united in the oldest human struggle - to be free.

if you can stream online, you can watch the documentary. it's an important 1. (and there's no fee to watch it.) pay attention over the weekend because the outrage is growing and that generally means israel begins moving to a wrap up and they always try to go out with a big-bang slaughter on even larger levels than what they start out with.

let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'

Friday, January 9, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US did not follow Geneva in Iraq, the puppet government attempts to impose 'conditions' on reporters, KBR and Halliburton find that a spotlight comes with greed, and more.

You Just Need a Dilettante To Know Which Way The Wind Blows. And Tom Hayden is one -- a greying, dottering one, but a dilettante none the less. At
ZNet (link provided so you can visit the scene of his crime), Tommy list a series of wants: "our new president to succeed, restore hope, and launch a new New Deal at home, not to be distracted by a quagmire abroad." Tom, you are now as officially nutty as Leslie Cagan and both of you should exit stage right immediately. These are not the voices of peace, these are the hormonally charged teenagers trying to figure out why their panties and briefs get damp when Barack walks by (as outlined in the year in review). Where in Tom's 'noble' laundry list do you see the least bit of concern for Iraqis? Poor Iraqis, Tom's all out of hope for them.

This is not a voice of peace, it's the sound of a suck-up who's finally spent the bulk of his divorce settlement (we always said, "Give it time, it will happen."). And Tom's no longer interested in Iraq. You get that from his praise for Dexter Filkins (the Falluja liar Dexy). You get that from his 'judgment' (don't bring up his record when it comes to judgments, we'll all be laughing for days and never get a thing accomplished). His judgment is that Iraq War is, so, like, totally over, you know, and all the way cool kids are sporting Afghanistan these days. Tom-Tom writes, "The conditions for a massive social movement against the Iraq War are ebbing, for now, unless large-scale fighting suddenly resumes or President Obama unexpectedly caves in to the Pentagon and blatantly breaks his promise to withdraw combat troops in 16 months and all troops by 2011." Poor Tom-Tom, he always rushed-rushed. In all areas of life. And now Tom-Tom ditches Iraq to move over to talking about Afghanistan because he's so very sure it's the next great frontier for the Barack Obama Movement. Not for the peace movement, mind you. And what's with 16-months, Tommy? I certainly haven't forgotten when you took one line of Barack's from that absurd Houston, Texas speech and insisted (in a full column -- fool column?) that Barack needed your votes now (more than ever!) because he'd just offered a new 'plan' -- Withdrawal in 10 months! Remember that? "
In his victory speech in Texas Tuesday, Barack Obama promised to end the Iraq war in 2009, a new committment that parallels recent [gas baggery] in The Nation." Remember those words?

He's lied for so long and lied so much, he can't even keep it straight anymore. He's honestly as manic as he was when he was rightly kicked out of the commune. And that's only more obvious when he decides he wants to 'comfort' readers with his opinion that Iraq will now be "a low-visibility counterinsurgency war like those that ravaged Central America in the 1970s." And that, apparently, requires no protest and doesn't disturb Tom Hayden. Poor Iraq War, someone should have told you that Tom-Tom loses interrest in causes as quickly as he does women.

Thanks for playing Tom. Go form a B-O circle jerk with Leslie Cagan. The two of you can argue over whether it's better to stare at the seat of Barack's pants or that really tight crotch. And use the link to laugh. I haven't laughed so hard since his August piece ("Dreams of Obama") where he used his children as accessories to shore up his faltering image but, somehow, forgot his adopted daughter. Was no one supposed to notice? Can we all expect 2009 to bring a Tommy Dearest page turner? Apparently everyone was too busy dropping their jaws at his slur against bi-racial children in that column to notice how quickly he disappeared family. As quickly as he tries today to disappear Iraq.

The Old Sell-Out can't be counted on but thank goodness we have an 'independent' media, right? No, we have a
Panhandle Media and somehow FAIR forgot to call out the little stunt taking place January 20th -- see Third Sunday for more on that.

Instead we'll drop back to November 28th when
Amnesy International issued this warning, "Thousands of Iraqis detained by US forces are at risk of torture or even execution, following the ratification of a security agreement between the US and Iraqi governments. Under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which will take effect on 31 December, around 16,000 prisoners held by the US will be transferred to Iraqi custody. Those at particular risk . . ." We'll stop right there. No need to worry because those prisoners will remain US prisoners. They are not being transitioned. Yes, the treaty supposedly guaranteed the handover but no one was foolish enough to fall for the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement, right? Oh, some did. Anyway, Peter Graff, Ahmed Rasheed, Khalid al-Ansary and Jon Boyle (Reuters) report, "Some prisoners held indefinitely without charge by US forces in Iraq may not be freed or given trials, even though U.S. forces lost the authority to hold them at the beginning of this year, a U.S. military spokesman said. . . U.S. forces are holding 15,000 prisoners, most of whom have been detained without charge under the authority of a U.N. Security Council resolution which expired on Dec. 31."

Earlier this week (Tuesday),
US House Rep John Conyers, as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the "National Commission on Presidential War Power and Civil Liberties" with Jerry Nadler, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Bill Delahunt and Eddie Bernice Johnson among the co-sponsors. The bill argues for the establishment of "a Blue Ribbon Commission comprised of experts outsdie government service to investigate the broad range of policies of the Bush adminstration that were undertaken by the Bush administration under claims of unreviewable war powers." Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Patrick Leahy, released three documents [PDF format warning] from the Office of legal Counsel -- one on the White House authority to use force against Iraq, a second on the UN Security Council from November 8, 2002 and a third entitled "Re: 'Protected Persons' in Occupied Iraq" (March 18, 2004) which is the one we're focusing on.

This memo (25 pages plus Appendix) was written by then Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith. The lie the White House repeated was that Geneva didn't apply to Afghanstian (legally, it should have applied) but Iraq was a war and they were following the Geneva Conventions. That was a lie. They were selectively following it. Goldsmith found, W"e conclude that the following persons, if captured in occupied Iraq, are not 'protected persons' within the meaning of GC article 4: U.S. nationals, nationals of a State not bound by the Convention, nationals of a co-belligerent State, and operatives of the al Qaeda terrorist organization who are not Iraqi nationals or permanent residents of Iraq." The White House honored Geneva selectively. They lied to the American people yet again. Equally disturbing is the legal opinion including pages 22 through 24 where the conditions arguing for the protection of members of a resistance movement are selectively noted by Goldsmith who attempts to impose limitations via revisionary history. Acknowledging the need for resistance against the Nazis, he does allow Geneve would protect Germans but, by his argument, members of the resistance in Germany or Poland who were French would not be protected. The Nazis were not limited to Germany and the resistance movement against the Nazis was an European movement -- a fact Goldsmith is either ignorant of or pretends to be. It's an appalling and shoddy legal opinion. He distorts or selectively ignores historical facts and when you're dealing with the Holocaust, that is especially offensive. This is a glimpse at just how sick the 'minds' at work in the current White House were.

So along with the approximately 16,000 prisoners the US was holding in Iraq that Amensty International was aware of, there are who knows how many others captured in Iraq and taken elsewhere? And, no, the expiration of the UN Security Council mandate does not mean that any of them are now turned over to the Iraqi puppet government.

Staying with legal news and also outrageous, KBR and Halliburton have found new scapegoats for their failures.
Laurel Brubaker Calkins and Margaret Cronin Fisk (Bloomberg News) report that the two giant corporations who have made billions in Iraq have decided that the an attack on a KBR truck in 2004 was not due to lack of security provided by the mega-rich corporations, the attack -- resulting in deaths and injuries -- was the fault of "the U.S. Army and Iraqi terrorists". A new low -- even for KBR and Halliburton. Not only is that so grossly insulting to the US service members, the hypothesis can't even hold up under its own weight. Let's throw logic and propriety out the window long enough to not object to the assertion that the US Army failed KBR and deaths and injuries were their fault. How do you lump 'terrorists' in there as well? So the way their little hypothesis works is that the US Army should have provided even more protection and, pay attention, so should terrorists. KBR and Halliburton wanted to make a quick buck on the cheap and risked human lives in order to do so.The US military had to protect KBR and that wasn't fair to them. When the KBR trucks would have a flat, get stuck or whatever, KBR employees would be able to leave the scene. The US service members would have to stay with the trucks, like sitting ducks. And as Kelly Dougherty (IVAW) has explained repeatedly, they would wait and wait and then finally be told to destroy the trucks and any cargo on it. Which would frequently anger the local populations. In March of last year, Iraq Veterans Against the War held their Winter Soldier Investigation. KPFA carried the hearings live for the bulk of the four days and Aaron Glantz and Aimee Allison were the on air moderators. One of the ways to hear the audio of the hearings is to go to Glatnz' War Comes Home site. [Allison is co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None.] March 14th was the first day of panels (the previous day was the opening of the hearings) and one of the afternoon panels was on corruption and war profiteering. Appearing on that panel was Doughtery and we'll note this from the March 14, 2008 snapshot:

KBR was the focus of Kelly Dougherty's testimony. She discussed how she and others serving in Iraq assigned to protect convoys were repeatedly put at risk when a KBR vehicle broke down, how they were told it was an asset to be protected even if that meant killing someone and then they would be told to forget it, to destroy the vehicle and move out. Iraqis desperate for fuel or the contents of the truck were not a concern and, if pressed, the US military command would instruct service members that distributing something in the trucks (before destroying them) could cause a riot. All of which goes to Doughtery's statement of Iraqis, "I'm looking at people I can't even look in the eye." Moving to Kuwait after serving in Iraq and while waiting to be sent back homes, service members were living in a KBR tent city. Doughtery explained, "When we were leaving . . . we were put in these tent cities. Our tents were completely covered with mold on the inside." The tents had bunk beds and not cots so service members were not allowed to (as some wanted) sleep outside the tents to avoid what appeared to be Black Mold. Instead, they suffered from respitory infections. Dougherty noted "this living condition where we couldn't even be in the place were we were supposed to live without getting sick." KBR made a big profit of the illegal war. KBR provided the troops with tents that made them sick. Where's the audit on that?

Marcia also covered Kelly Doughtery's testimony:

They were dealing with KBR trucks -- which were worth about $80,000, chump change to KBR. You may remember the stories of contractors abandoning trucks and cars and the cost for new ones (usually on a cost-plus contract) being passed back on to you and me the tax payers. Doughtery noted that KBR's trucks "would break down a lot, would get in accidents a lot." They'd stop for flat tries or because they got stuck in the mud,things like that as well. The drivers were treated horribly by KBR and were from countries such as Pakistan, India, etc. The truck would break down, the driver would hop out of the truck and get a ride with someone else in the convoy and the MPs would be called in to secure the abandoned trucks. Doughtery explained, "For us as miltary police, we're told when we get into Iraq and when we're getting on these convoy missions" that KBR's trucks are United States assets and "need to be protected, with force, with deadly force if necessary." The drill was always the same: secure the trucks and wait. Then came the call that they couldn't find anyone to come get the trucks so they should just leave it.That didn't mean, "Hop in your vehicles and leave!" That meant disable the vehicles (fire grenades into the engine blocks) and destroy whatever cargo it had. That meant setting fuel on fire in front of Iraqis who had no fuel. That meant burning produce in front of Iraqis who were hungry. That meant destroying a brand new ambulance in an area that had none and really needed one. Doughtery explained that even the local sheiks were out on the last one, trying to convince US soldiers that if they would leave the ambulance alone, they (Iraqis) would figure out how to get it off its side and out of the mud."That was pretty much a daily occurence," said Dougherty. "Where we were abandoning vehicles by KBR contractors on a daily basis."

And KBR and Halliburton have the nerve today to blame the US service members? KBR's always in the news.
Julie Sullivan (The Oregonian) reports that there are now 48 ("at least 48) soldiers in Oregon who were "assigned to protect contractors rebuilding a water treatment plant near Iraqi oil fields in 2003 [who] were exposed to hexavalent chronicum" which is risk factor for lung cancer. (It most likely causes lung cancer. Everyone's being careful with their words.) Sullivan notes, "Concern for Oregon soldiers was first raised by Lt. Col. B.J. Prendergast, who served as executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment in Iraq in 2003. His soldiers had already been reassigned when he saw a command e-mail alert about the exposure. He immediately demanded an occupational health assessment for the troops. They were evaluated in Kuwait, and their history was noted in post-deployment reports at Fort Lewis, Wash. No blood or urine tests were conducted." And Laura Strickler (CBS News) reports that "the Senate Armed Services Committee has requested a new investigation into the multi-billion dollar military contractor Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR). The investigation request is based on accusations from a retired Army official who managed the contractor's work in Iraq."

Today puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki made a statement.
Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) reports that at police ceremony, al-Maliki declared, "Frankly, before there was no confidence (in the police) because of (militia) infiltrations, but great efforts have ended these and closed the doors to those who infiltrated. . . . We changed the police from a broken apparatus, based on sectarianism . . . into a coherent, professional one." Well, he says so anyway. There's no check on his decree. At the start of November, the big story was that the "Awakening" Councils had been turned over to Iraqi control (and that Iraq was picking up their salaries). That wasn't the case either. Today David Axe (Wired) reports on the continued handover of the "Awakening" Councils -- still not completed and will go through at least next month as well. The hopes by many were that they would be absorbed by the Iraqi police. ("Many" is both "Awakening" Council members and US commanders in Iraq.) al-Maliki has seen these thugs as a threat to his control after having staffed so many ranks with his own sectarian thugs and has made clear he does not trust the bulk of the "Awakeing" members on the polic force. Axe notes that the "Daughters of Iraq" number "roughtly 800" and were turned over to the central government already. Also today demonstrations took place in Baghdad against the continued assault on Gaza. AFP reports approximately 2,000 supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr demonstrated against the assault. al-Sadr's call for retaliation attacks in Iraq against the US was repeated by a spokesperson who read his statements.

Meanwhile the violence continued today.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left six wounded, a Kirkuk roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 Iraqi service member and left two more wounded and, dropping back to Thursday night, a Basra rocket attack that left "at least 20 wounded civilians" requiring medical attention at Al Fayhaa Hospital. Reuters notes a Baiji roadside bombing today that claimed the lives of 5 Iraqi service members and 3 Basra rocket attacks today that left four wounded. A total of 6 Iraqi soldiers have been reported dead from bombings today. Yesterday's roadside bombings killed 8 Iraqi soldiers. Timothy Williams (New York Times) draws a connection between yesterday's bombings and the upcoming provincial elections in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces, "Although the majority of Diyala's population is Sunni, the provincial council is dominated by Shiites because Sunnis boycotted local elections in 2005. But as new provincial elections, scheduled for Jan. 31, are approaching, tensions between Sunnis and Shiites have increased."

The United Nations has warned for months that violence would increase as provincial elections approached.
At the start of this month, Staffan de Mistura, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, condemned the assassination of candidate Mowaffaq al-Hamdani as "the worst kind of election violence. . . . Campaign violence in Iraq must not be allowed to intimidate candidates or interfere with the right of every Iraqi to exercise their vote on 31 January." At the start of the month, the Independent High Electoral Commission published a list of crimes that could result in as much as year-long prison sentence and they include: 'intimidating or bribing" IHEC "staff or voters" as does using force or threats to interfere in the provincial elections. Kim Gamel (AP) reports that other 'laws' are being pressed. Specifically the puppet government has issued a 14-page conduct code for reporters -- Iraqi and foreign -- that they will need to sign "in exchange for permission to attend this month's provincial elections, riaisng concerns among media analysts that independent coverage could be undermined."

Yesterday the Security Council of the United Nations heard from Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Below are his remarks specifically on Iraq:

Mr. President, in Iraq with the improved security situtation, UNHCR is working hard to help the government create appropriate conditions for the voluntary return and sustainable integration of refugees and internally displaced; however, there is a long way to go. Voluntary return must take place in safety and dignity and it is therefore imperative that states preserve the asylum space that they have made available to Iraqi refugees throughout the past five years in the region and beyond. More than 2 million Iraqis are still hosted mainly by Jordan and Syria in a very generous way and a similar number remains displaced inside the country. I call on the world's most prosperous states to offer full support to those countries and organizations that are bearing the brunt of the Iraqi exodus -- both by means of material assistance and through the expended provision of resettlement opportunities to those vulnerable Iraqis for whom voluntary repatriation will not be a viable option. To prepare for returns, we redeployed UNHCR's representative in Iraq from Amman [Jordan] to Baghdad in March of last . . . year. And we have also established an international presence in Erbil, Mosul and Basra. We have national staff in eleven of the country's governorates and plan to further expand our presence and activities in Iraq as the evolving security environment permits. Beyond security, sustainable return to Iraq will require effective action in the areas of property restitution or property compensation for those unable to go back to their places of orign and full and equitable access to welfare services and public distribution systems.

Yesterday's snapshot also included this: "As
Stevie Nicks once sang, 'No one ever leaves, every one stays, close til the fire fades' ('Fireflies,' written by Nicks, on Fleetwood Mac Live). Sidebar: Stevie joins bandmates Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Lindsey Buckingham for the group's first tour which kicks off March 1st in Pittsburgh (March tour dates are up at Fleetwood Mac's site)." That should have been "first tour in five years." My apologies. Public broadcasting notes. Starting with public radio, WBAI on Sunday and Monday offers:Sunday, January 11, 11am-noonTHE NEXT HOURActor/author/raconteur Malachy McCourt holds forth on issues ofchurch, art, state.Monday, January 12, 2-3pmCAT RADIO CAFEProducer and Artistic Director Mark Russell on "Under the Radar," aspectacular international theater festival now in its 5th season;author/artist Wafaa Bilal on "Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and ResistanceUnder the Gun," his book about an interactive performance piece; andpianist/composer Andrew Shapiro on upcoming performances and his newrecording of "Numbers, Colors and People," works for solo pianomerging classical and pop sensibilities. Hosted by Janet Coleman andDavid Dozer.Broadcasting at WBAI/NY 99.5 FMStreaming live at WBAIArchived at Cat Radio CafePublic television finds NOW on PBS exploring global warming's impact on ocean currents and sea chemistry as they travel "deep into the oceans with scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) with help from other researchers for a first hand look at this stunning sea change, and what we can do about." That begins airing on most PBS stations tonight as does Washington Week (check local listings for both) which finds Gwen and the gas bags exploring few topics but pretending they are many. Look for lots of bad puns and what doesn't even qualify as a one-liner. John Harwood (NYT, CNBC) shows up without his twin (John Dickerson), Michael Duffy (Time magazine) and Mark Mazzetti (NYT) will attempt to grapple with topics (and what passes for topics) while Jeanne Cummings grapples with the English language (stands in front of, stands behind -- it's all so confusing for Jeanne).

And on broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday,
60 Minutes:The Price Of OilThe historic swings in oil prices last year were the result of financial speculation from Wall Street and not supply and demand, several sources from the financial and oil communities tell Steve Kroft. Watch Video
The ChairmanCBS News correspondent David Martin profiles Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen.
WyclefWyclef Jean immigrated to the U.S. as a child and grew up to live the American dream as a millionaire rock star. He's now using his extraordinary talents and wealth to help his native Haiti. Scott Pelley reports.
60 Minutes, this Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
60 Minutes Update:
Obama And The EconomyPresident-elect Barack Obama is promoting his economic stimulus plan on Thursday in a speech at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Scott Pelley spoke with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson about the economic crisis in October. Watch Video

Finally, the Illinois Supreme Court stuck with the law.
Reuters reports that they have ruled Senator Roland Burris does not need Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to sign off on his appointment to the Senate ("The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday ruled Democrat Roland Burris' appointment to the U.S. Senate valid . . .") Joe Barrett (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin says a ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court over the credentials of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's Senate appointee has created an impasse and he urged that the filling of Mr. Obama's seat be put on hold pending the outcome of the state senate trial of Mr. Blagojevich." Durbin's disgracing himself in a way he hasn't since his teary-eyed water works after he got smacked down for telling the truth about Guantanamo.
Reuters reports he has stated that a new governor must be sworn in (that would be the Lt. Governor if Rod Blagojevich steps down) and a new appointment made. That's not how it works. This change the line every time you don't like the way the law is only adds fuel to the charges of racism. Roland Burris needs to be seated and Dick Durbin needs to learn what is and is not his business. (Or else the nation will suffer through many more of his weepy apologies.)

peter graffahmed rasheedkhalid al-ansaryjon boyle
the new york timestimothy williams
laurel brubaker calkinsmargaret cronin fiskbloomberg newsjulie sullivancbs newslaura strickler
iraq veterans against the war
kelly dougherty
aimeee allisondavid solnit
aaron glantz
60 minutescbs newsnow on pbspbswbaicat radio cafejanet colemandavid dozerwashington week


u.n. votes for cease-fire

The UN Security Council appears to have overcome its divisions and is poised to vote unanimously for a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Chances of the resolution being agreed appeared to recede earlier when new disagreements emerged in New York between Arab states and Western powers.

that's bbc on the latest. the united nations security council might take action. (they have, it's on the t.v. right now.) did they just decide israel's actions were outrageous?


and let's go through some of the u.n. comments today and comments made by u.n. members.

this is from u.n. notes on a security council briefing that took place today:

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), echoing the High Commissioner’s admiration for UNWRA’s workers in the Gaza Strip, called for immediate humanitarian access in light of the immense suffering caused by the escalation of violence in Gaza and southern Israel. The United Kingdom called for an immediate ceasefire and condemned acts of terror and violence against civilians.
Pointing out that the majority of people affected by violence did not cross international borders, she expressed strong support for the High Commissioner’s approach to internally displaced persons, encouraging him to see what could be done, in cooperation with humanitarian partners, to enhance the cluster approach. As for the changing causes of forced displacement, the current protection framework was adequate if implemented properly.
Council members did not yet have a unified view on the concept of responsibility to protect, she said, adding that Governments should be helped in discharging their responsibility to protect civilians. The United Kingdom would welcome more regular and ad hoc briefings by the High Commissioner, and the Council should make greater use of UNHCR expertise in formulating mandates. There had been a debate within the United Nations and the international community about whether refugees should be encouraged to return only to their own places of origin, or whether they should be encouraged to go to other places. The United Kingdom needed more information on that discussion.

ABDELRAZAG GOUIDER ( Libya) said no one could appreciate UNHCR’s work more than people living in Africa and the Middle East, which had, over the past few decades, seen wars and natural disasters that had sparked large population flows. Along with protecting displaced persons and refugees, the countries concerned also faced the challenge of coping with the tensions that often arose between the displaced and local populations, as was the case with those displaced from Somalia, Sudan, Iraq and other countries. The ideal solution for addressing such problems was to prevent conflict, resolve disputes and resolve tensions, ensure safety and, ultimately, provide livelihoods and jobs.
He went on to recount the disturbing events in Gaza, where the civilian Palestinian population was being displaced due to collective punishment with Nazi-like overtones. The people of Gaza could not flee and had no option but death. The Security Council remained silent while those preventing it from shouldering its responsibilities were evincing tacit approval of Israel’s operations. Libya appreciated the work carried out by UNRWA and its staff in very dangerous conditions, and hoped that the Council could quickly arrange a briefing of that Agency’s Commissioner-General. The Council should ensure that no effort was spared in protecting all civilians in conflict, including displaced persons and refugees.

now this is the united nations summary of the president of the general assembly's press conference on gaza today:

Harshly criticizing the Security Council’s delay in demanding and achieving a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the General Assembly, said today that the Assembly would hold its tenth emergency special session this afternoon to pressure Israel and the United States to comply with the multitude of United Nations resolutions concerning the question of Palestine.
[It was announced later that the emergency session had been cancelled.]
Speaking at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon, the President lashed out at Israel’s strategy to use the United Nations to stall a ceasefire agreement until it had achieved its military objectives in Gaza. In a statement, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had described Israel’s fundamental diplomatic objective of gaining time to achieve its goals.
“Gain time for what?” Mr. d’Escoto demanded. “So that there can be more killing? So that there can be more destruction and more suffering of innocent people?” Ms. Livni’s views on the need for more time were “almost the same words uttered by (United States Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice during the (2006) Israeli invasion into Lebanon”.
The President continued: “I think that it is not unlikely that the timing of this particular incident now is precisely to be able to do whatever they want to do before ( United States) President [George w.] Bush leaves.”
He said he had received a growing number of requests from Heads of State and diplomats around the world, particularly in the last two days, to convene the emergency session to consider the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. However, the President declined to name those Member States when asked by a correspondent to do so.
The world, he said, was “fed up” with the inability of the United Nations, in particular the Security Council acting on the Assembly’s behalf, to fulfil its principle and founding objective of averting war and maintaining international peace and security. This afternoon’s meeting was intended to exert pressure to ensure that the Council’s legally binding resolutions were in fact implemented, and that Member States were not allowed to shirk their duty to the Organization. “ Israel should be open to resolutions not only of the Security Council ‑- which it does not care to comply with ‑- but also to resolutions of the General Assembly. After all, it owes its own existence to a General Assembly resolution. That’s more than any other country can say.”
Expressing frustration with the Council’s “dysfunctionality”, he stressed that the international community must not remain silent, and warned that a ceasefire in the current Gaza crisis would not be permanent unless the root causes of the conflict were addressed. The United Nations had created a Jewish State in 1948, but a Palestinian one was yet to be established. On the contrary, Palestinians were humiliated and discriminated against every day, and that must change.
Asked to comment on the moral obligation of the United States Secretary of State to end the Israeli invasion of Gaza, he said she must work for peace rather than block it. She must not betray the ideals of the American people and the spirit and letter of the United Nations Charter, which she was obliged to uphold.
Responding to a question about what the Assembly could do specifically to end the Gaza crisis, he stressed the need to ensure that nations complied with the Charter’s call for effective, prompt action to end armed conflict. “Just because the General Assembly is accustomed to not doing very much, doesn’t mean it cannot do something. This is only the beginning of our struggle for peace in the Middle East.”
When pressed to name the countries that had called for the emergency Assembly session, the President said he had consulted with several representatives of Member States, including permanent and non-permanent Council members. Many of them had expressed their belief that a draft resolution on the Gaza crisis would be brought before the Council, where it would be vetoed.
The last meeting of the Assembly’s tenth emergency special session was held on 15 December 2006 to consider illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

and this is the u.n.'s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, director of gaza operations for u.n. relief and works agency for palestine refugees:

The need for a full and immediate ceasefire between Hamas and Israel was becoming more desperate by the hour as continuing violence rendered humanitarian activities increasingly difficult and, in some respects, almost impossible, John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, said at Headquarters this afternoon.
Indeed, the activities of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) had been suspended today following the killing by Israeli tank fire of one driver and the wounding of another in a clearly marked aid convoy less than a kilometre from the Erez crossing. A second convoy dispatched to recover the body of a United Nations staffer had come under small arms fire in Gaza City during today’s three-hour lull in hostilities.
Mr. Holmes, who was joined via video link by John Ging, UNRWA’s Director of Operations in Gaza, emphasized that both convoys had been the subject of careful coordination between the Agency and the Israel Defense Forces through the Israeli liaison office and had been given the green light.
“This is a very, very difficult decision for us to take,” Mr. Ging said. “The population here are in a dreadful state and really need our help, but we also have a responsibility to our staff. We cannot fly in the face of the security situation we find ourselves in.”
The accumulation of incidents against UNRWA staff and facilities, including Tuesday’s shelling of an UNRWA-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, were above and beyond the reasonable risks of a conflict zone, he continued, suggesting that the credibility of the mechanism in place to coordinate humanitarian operations with Israeli authorities had broken down. “If they give us the clearance to move, it is wholly and totally unacceptable that their soldiers on the ground are firing on our aid workers.” Until satisfactory assurances of those workers’ safety could be made, the movement of all UNRWA staff would remain frozen.
He stressed that the key to a resumption of the Agency’s humanitarian efforts was a cessation of violence on both sides. There was an urgent need to end the fighting. Israel’s around-the-clock bombardment had left Gaza’s streets largely deserted and “eerie”, given the enclave’s reputation as one of the most densely populated places on Earth. However, there was an absence of anger among Gazans. They were not anti-Israeli, but at a loss as to why the hostilities were allowed to continue.
Mr. Holmes said that another factor in the decision to suspend UNRWA operations was the fact that the transportation company employing the drivers killed and injured today was the only one authorized to handle the goods crossing at Erez or Kerem Shalom. Until a ceasefire was reached or better security guarantees were provided, that company had decided it could no longer operate. That meant that, even if the crossings were open, and even if another company were convinced to operate in Gaza, all movement of significant goods was suspended.
He reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had also decided to suspend operations. After gaining access to one residential area near Gaza City, its staffers had found 12 corpses lying on mattresses, with, in some cases, small children lying next to their dead mothers, too weak to stand up on their own. In adjacent buildings, 18 survivors, some of them wounded, had been found, in addition to three other bodies. ICRC had been shocked to discover an Israeli military post located some 80 metres from the house, yet no one had intervened in the days since the deadly attack. Rather, the rescue team had been ordered to leave the area.
He said ICRC was arguing that the situation contravened international humanitarian law, an issue that he had raised with the Israeli authorities to ensure the security of humanitarian efforts.
Turning to broader issues in the humanitarian efforts in Gaza, he said the local Ministry of Health was reporting a total of 758 fatalities since the start of hostilities. About 34 per cent, or 257, of those killed were children and 7.5 per cent, or 56, were women. There was a total of 3,100 injured people, of whom 1,080 were children and 452 women.
Although the United Nations could not independently verify those figures, they appeared credible, Mr. Holmes said, noting the rising incidence of civilian casualties, including whole families buried in houses hit in the bombardment. On the other hand, Hamas militants continued firing mortars and rockets into Israel, with total fatalities holding at 4 and more than 30 injured.
Meanwhile, the number of displaced people had risen from 16,000 yesterday to almost 20,000 today, he said. Many of them were now in UNRWA shelters, which were located in schools for the most part. As a result of the overall crisis, public health concerns were growing and hospitals were struggling without enough supplies or workers.
Fuel supplies had entered Gaza and the number of people with running water at some point during the day had increased by 300,000, he said. But sewage pumps were still not working on a widespread basis and the power plant had not been started because the damage to its delivery network was that it was pointless using the fuel until the delivery of power to the local population could be guaranteed. In addition, the Kerem Shalom, Erez and Rafah crossings open in different ways, but there was no final confirmation that some 80 trucks scheduled to enter had been able to do so.
Asked if he could state unequivocally that Israel was responsible for the incidents in questions, Mr. Ging said that, while that Israel might dispute its role in the future, it had not yet done so.
In response to several questions about the tunnel systems in Gaza and what the targeting of those networks might mean, he said he could state categorically that none of those tunnels emanated from United Nations buildings. Furthermore, the Israelis had never alerted him that such might be the case.
Responding to a question about Israel’s claims that militants had been operating out of the school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, he said he was confident after visiting the site that no militants had been inside the building at the time of the bombing and no fire had come from within. However, Israel’s position on the issue had shifted to suggest that militant fire had come from the vicinity of the school rather than from inside.
Those responsible should be held accountable for the use of force as regulated by international law, he said. Had the response been appropriate and proportional? Had the duty to have a care for the civilian population within and in the vicinity of the school been discharged? Presumably, Israel accepted that, beyond the two militants they had thus far named as being among the dead, the 41 other casualties were civilians.
Responding to a question about various weapons reportedly used in Gaza, Mr. Holmes said there was no indication at present that cluster bombs were being used. Some assessments by Norway suggested that phosphorus-filled weapons were being used, but ICRC had said it had seen no evidence.
Asked where and when the United Nations had suspended humanitarian operations in the past, Mr. Holmes stressed that only UNRWA’s activities had ceased, not all United Nations humanitarian efforts. While the World Food Programme was considering a similar decision, other organizations such as the World Health Organization continued their work.

now if you read all of that - and this is why i put it in - you'll think, 'the united nations is going to do something and do it immediately!'

if you're thinking that, it is your 1st time at the rodeo.

the u.n. always wants to do something.

the american vote usually ensures that nothing ever happens. on the security council, for example, the u.s. is 1 of the permanent members. any permanent member can veto any action - just 1 permanent member saying 'nix.'

so there is always talk of supporting the palestinians in the u.n. but very little happens to match the wording.

as i said, the t.v. is saying that the u.n. supports an immediate cease-fire. but how far will the u.n. go (or be allowed to go) in order to see that take place?

this is the independent of london (and it's friday there already):

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza deepened yesterday when the main United Nations aid agency suspended its work in the Strip after one of its drivers was killed by an Israeli tank shell.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also said it would restrict its operations after one of its lorry drivers was hurt when a convoy carrying drugs for Gaza hospitals and transferring intensive care patients to Egypt came under fire from Israeli troops south of Gaza City. Both organisations said their convoys had been co-ordinated with the Israeli military.
John Ging, operations director of the UN Relief and Works Agency, said: "We have lost confidence in the mechanism that is there. We are ... prepared to take reasonable risks in this conflict but something has to change with regard to our being able to rely on the liaison that we do with the Israeli military.

a u.n. staffer and a red crosser staffer are hurt in 2 different incidents, hurt by 1 government, and the israeli government gets away with it. always. over and over. i've seen it happen for as long as i've followed the issue.

this is from john pilger's 'Holocaust Denied' (dissident voice):

They know that the horror now raining on Gaza has little to do with Hamas or, absurdly, “Israel’s right to exist”. They know the opposite to be true: that Palestine’s right to exist was canceled 61 years ago and the expulsion and, if necessary, extinction of the indigenous people was planned and executed by the founders of Israel. They know, for example, that the infamous “Plan D” resulted in the murderous de-population of 369 Palestinian towns and villages by the Haganah (Jewish army) and that massacre upon massacre of Palestinian civilians in such places as Deir Yassin, al-Dawayima, Eilaboun, Jish, Ramle and Lydda are referred to in official records as “ethnic cleansing”. Arriving at a scene of this carnage, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, was asked by a general, Yigal Allon, “What shall we do with the Arabs?” Ben-Gurion, reported the Israeli historian Benny Morris, “made a dismissive, energetic gesture with his hand and said, ‘Expel them’. The order to expel an entire population “without attention to age” was signed by Yitzhak Rabin, a future prime minister promoted by the world’s most efficient propaganda as a peacemaker. The terrible irony of this was addressed only in passing, such as when the Mapan Party co-leader Meir Ya’ari noted “how easily” Israel’s leaders spoke of how it was “possible and permissible to take women, children and old men and to fill the roads with them because such is the imperative of strategy … who remembers who used this means against our people during the [Second World] war… we are appalled.”
Every subsequent “war” Israel has waged has had the same objective: the expulsion of the native people and the theft of more and more land. The lie of David and Goliath, of perennial victim, reached its apogee in 1967 when the propaganda became a righteous fury that claimed the Arab states had struck first. Since then, mostly Jewish truth-tellers such as Avi Schlaim, Noam Chomsky, the late Tanya Reinhart, Neve Gordon, Tom Segev, Yuri Avneri, Ilan Pappe and Norman Finkelstein have dispatched this and other myths and revealed a state shorn of the humane traditions of Judaism, whose unrelenting militarism is the sum of an expansionist, lawless and racist ideology called Zionism. “It seems,” wrote the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe on 2 January, “that even the most horrendous crimes, such as the genocide in Gaza, are treated as desperate events, unconnected to anything that happened in the past and not associated with any ideology or system… Very much as the apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government , this ideology — in its most consensual and simplistic variety — has allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanize the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them. The means altered from period to period, from location to location, as did the narrative covering up these atrocities. But there is a clear pattern [of genocide].”

switching topics, the movie posts we did last night are all worth reading and this is an easy to click reference:

Thomas Friedman is a Great Man
Marilyn Monroe
10 hours ago

Mikey Likes It!
Audrey Hepburn
10 hours ago

Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude
gaza, bette davis
10 hours ago

Clark Gable, Roland Burris
10 hours ago

Ruth's Report
Gary Cooper
10 hours ago

Oh Boy It Never Ends
Ingrid Bergman
10 hours ago

Like Maria Said Paz
John Wayne
10 hours ago

Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills)
Charlie Chaplin
10 hours ago

that's it for me tonight. i know i've gone on and on about gaza for what, 2 weeks? longer? if you're a longterm reader, you know that happens when the palestinians are under attack. this really is my key issue.

let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'

Thursday, January 8, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, another US service member dies in Iraq, the UN discusses refugees, Barack attacks Social Security, and more.

Today Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, informed the UN Security Council about the refugee crisis in the world and noted that the total number of refugees falling under the UNHCR is 11 million -- up from 9 million in 2006 -- with the numbers being driven by Somalia and Iraq. The
United Nations notes of his briefing, "In Iraq, UNHCR was working hard to help the Government create appropriate conditions for the voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of refugees and the internally displaced, he said. Two million Iraqis were hosted mainly by Jordan and Syria, and a similar number remained displaced inside their own country. UNHCR called on the more prosperous States to offer full support to countries and organizations bearing the brunt of the Iraqi exodus. To prepare for returns, UNHCR had redeployed its represenatives for Iraq from Amman to Baghdad and established an international presence in Erbil, Mosul and Basra. Beyond security, sustainable return to Iraq would require effective action in the areas of property restitution or compensation, and full and equitable access to welfare services and public distribution systems."

Yesterday the
US Department of Defense announced "the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Staff Sgt. Anthony D. Davis, 29, of Daytona Beach, Fla., died Jan. 6 in Northern Iraq, of wounds suffered when he was shot by enemy forces. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia." Audrey Parente (Daytona Beach News-Journal) has a strong article on Davis's life. M-NF never announced that death. The way it works -- when it works -- is that M-NF announces a death has occurred. Later, after the family has been notified, DoD issues the name of the deceased. 4223 is the current number of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

Repeating, 4223. Not 4213, as
Eric Owles maintains in a New York Times blog post allegedly written today: "Will it be the Iraq where 4,213 American service members and an estimated 90,000 Iraqis have been killed?" Christmas Day, the death toll was 4217. When did Owles write that 'think' piece? Again, the date on it says today but today's death toll is 4223. As for 90,000? If he can't even get the US death toll correct, don't expect miracles when it comes to Iraqis. Approximately 1.3 million Iraqis have died since the start of the illegal war. Owles is using the numbers from the laughable Iraq Body Count -- numbers embraced by Bully Boy, in case anyone forgot. SourceWatch notes of Iraq Body Count, "However, as Medialens notes: 'In reality, IBC is not primarily an Iraq Body Count, it is not even an Iraq Media Body Count, it is an Iraq Western Media Body Count'." Having tired himself out handling bad numbers, Owles steers readers this post by Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) where Ricks predicts that 2009 will be "tougher" in 2009 than it was in 2008 and that "Obama's war in Iraq may last longer than Bush's". Ricks also notes, "The recent Status of Forces Agreement also means less than it seems. For example, U.S. forces are supposed to get out of major bases in the cities later this year. But there really aren't major big bases in the cities now -- the last time I was in Iraq I was told there is really only one -- and U.S. military advisors will remain in urban outposts along with Iraiq forces. I suspect the SOFA really is most meaninful for the political help it will give Prime Minister Maliki in getting re-elected at the end of 2009 by taking the American presence off the table as a wedge issue for Iraqis."

A presence kind-of departing Iraq is the Denmark military. The
Copenhagen Post reports that the last six Danish military officers have left: "The UN mandate for the force ran out at the start of the year and the Iraqi authorities have not asked the Danes to remain in the country." But the paper reports, "Between 40 and 50 members of the armed forces remain in Iraq providing security for the embassy, connected with the UN and on a Nato training mission." As Stevie Nicks once sang, "No one ever leaves, every one stays, close til the fire fades" ("Fireflies," written by Nicks, on Fleetwood Mac Live). Sidebar: Stevie joins bandmates Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Lindsey Buckingham for the group's first tour which kicks off March 1st in Pittsburgh (March tour dates are up at Fleetwood Mac's site).

No one ever leaves . . .
Elaine Brower (World Can't Wait) reports what happened to those who protest the illegal war in 2009. Tuesday when Congress did it's first day of 'business' (Its business, so very rarely ever the people's business), Activist Response Team staged a March of the Dead which found 70 or so activists in "white masks and wearing all black signifying the souls of those who will be haunting the criminals who are sending bombs to kill Iraqis, Afghanis, Palestinians and members of the military who are the lethal arm of this government's quest for empire" begam marching in the rain through DC, stopping at the Supreme Court before moving onto the Senate Hart Building where they unfurled banners in the atrium as the names of some of the dead were read out loud. The banners read "THE AUDACITY OF WAR CRIMES," "IRAQ," "AFGHANISTAN" and "PALESTINE" and "Capitol Police, who were present when the march came into the building, quickly responded to remove the words that were so hurtful to those who were guilty of committing these war crimes. Within seconds, the banners were pulled up, but it gave press and other independent media a chance to photograph it all. An everlasting message to the murderers who keep spending taxpayer dollars to kill innocent people. At that point seven people were arrested for unfurling the words of truth, but those on the ground floor of the Hart Buidling remained reading the names of the dead. The police were gathering in force, and just as a secure perimeter was formed around the masked readers, another banner announcing 'WE WILL NOT BE SILENT' was dropped. Quickly, three people were carted off by the police, and the banner was cut down." In all, 17 activsts were arrested including those 'guilty of the crime' of reading the names of the dead outloud.

Though democracy is never 'exportable' possibly the White House had such a difficult time with 'giving' it to Iraq because it wasn't to be found in much of the US? But they will try again January 31st when provincial elections are scheduled.
Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that yesterday's Holy day was seen as a campaign tool for "Iraq's ruling Shiite Muslim parties" and they conducted a poster war "from Baghdad to the southern city of Karbala" in anticipation of the provincial elections in "14 of the country's 18 provinces." Fadel notes that a number of voters state they will not vote for "their sects or their ethnicity" due to no progress on the ground in terms of basic services. A former school teacher, Widad Hamid, offers another reason, "Unfortunately it seems that when all is told it is Shiite support Shiite." (Hamid is Sunni.) Fadel judges the race in "the Shiite south" to be chiefly between Nouri al-Maliki's United Iraqi Alliance-Islamic Dawa Party and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and notes some were not pleased to see the Holy day co-opted by political campaigns. Basheer Aoun al Anbari states, "Under the past regime God cursed us. Now God curses us again. It upsets us that they use our religion. They did not apply what Imam Hussein symbolizes: justice." Kimi Youshino (Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond) observes that the "concrete blast walls make the perfect blank canvas for election posters" and that, "Judge Qasim Hasan Abodi, head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission, said several candidates and political parties have been warned about defacing posters -- as well as putting them in areas off-limits for posters, including government buildings and security checkpoints." Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports that many, many men celeberated the Holy day in honor of Iman Hussein -- allegedly a holiday for all Shi'ites but al-Maliki refused to allow women to participate. Allegedly, the fact that suicide bombers are women resulted in them being blocked from the ceremonies. Of course, many, many more suicide bombers are men and no one blocked them from celebrating.

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Basra rocket attack that left four people wounded and 2 Diyala roadside bombing the claimed the lives of 6 Iraqi soldiers with three more wounded. Jordan's Al-Bawaba adds, "According to the AP, an official at the provincial security headquarters in Diyala province said the bombs went off simultaneously Thursday at about 2 a.m. as the patrol was in a village near Jalula." UPI notes the 6 dead and notes another "bombing occured in Rashad . . . killing two [Iraqi] soldiers and wounding two others." Reuters drops back to Wednesday to note a Mosul roadside bombing that left "two municipality cleaners" injured.


Reuters notes "the head of the Badr organisation" was shot dead outside Tuz Khumato.

Yesterday the
US State Dept declared that it was supporting "a project to develop a plan for the management and preservation of the archaeological site of Babylon. Funded to nearly $700,000 this project will be carried out by the World Monuments Fund (WMF) in partenrship with the IRaq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH). Bablyon stands out among Iraq's rich contributions to humanity" and goes on to speak about the US "respect for the cultural heritage of Iraq." Damn shame that was nowhere to be found when Iraq's antiquities were being looted.

In the United States, the Department of Defense is in the news again. A form letter was sent out to the families of service members who had died in Iraq and Afghanistan and the letter opened, "Dear John Doe,".
Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) insists this was due to a software problem -- he offers no proof for that but keep insisting if it makes you feel good. Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) explains there were 7,000 form letters in all and that the miliary is blaming the subcontractor but was saying that they (the military) still "bore ultimate responsibility" for the error/insult and US Army Gen George W. Casey Jr. will be signing 7,000 form letters of apology. Bumiller notes that the military has stated either a computer glitch or human error caused the problem. Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) speaks with the mother of the late US Army Sgt. Michael Carlson, 22 when he died January 24, 2005 in Iraq. Merrille Carlson states, "The indication that anyone would perceive that a hero is not significant, that they would not direct this personally to them, is shattering. While it's a simple mistake, it's a very tragic mistake." Columnist Sharon Grigsby (Dallas Morning News) suggest the military find "a few good copy editors" and concludes, "I've read The Official Line, that it was a printing error by a contractor who forgot to change the placeholder greeting. The Army should have just stuck with the apology and not tried to pass the buck."

And the Pentagon, as
UPI notes, has ruled PTSD? No big woop. Certainly not worthy of a Purple Heart. Lizette Alvarez and Erik Eckhom (New York Times) report multiple excuses and minimizations but no real reasons from those who speak to them about the topic. If you read closely, you also grasp that you're seeing why so many suffering from PTSD initially refuse to seek help: The military continues to treat it as a nothing. Read the article, it's not even a 'real' wound. That's the attitude and it's why all the fliers posted in barracks won't change the reluctance of service members, as they prepare for discharge, to say, "I need help." Who needs help from something so insignificant, so minor? Military Order of Purple Heart's John Bircher III 'explains,' "There were wounds there" for 'real' injuries and that to receive a Purple Heart, "Shedding blood is the objective."That is so insulting and it backs up the culture of denial inbred in the US military when it comes to PTSD. Until it's confronted, many will not receive the treatment they need. The Pentagon's latest stunt and the remarks by so many in the article go a long way towards ensuring that PTSD is not seen as the very real war wound that it is. Again, posters in barracks and pamphlets left on tables won't change the perception of PTSD when the entire military culture from on high repeatedly insists it's not 'really' a wound. George Harris (Kansas City Star) dismisses the absurd notion that PTSD isn't worthy of a Purple heart because it's "not caused intentionally" by noting that "no one can argue that the enemy's specific intention in Iraq is to remove a soldier's arm or leg. There intention is to kill" and he notes:

The general public has long stigmatized people with mental illness. In pre-scientific times, mental illness was believed to result from demons, and in modern times some people still believe that people could control mental illness with more desire and self-control.
But severe mental illness, such as PTSD, is accompanied by actual physical changes in the brain. Brain imaging techniques are improving and revealing areas of the brain that show abnormal activity in these disorders.

Meanwhile an
Iraq War veteran shares his story at Iraq Veterans Against the War:

I am Benji Lewis. I deployed to Iraq twice in 2004 and 2005 and was discharged honorably in 2007. Recently I have been involuntarily activated from the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) by the U.S. Marine Corps in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, an activation that I have been publicly refusing.
The IRR is an inactive group of service members who still have time remaining on their signing agreements and are eligible to call up in states of emergency. The current state of emergency is the open-ended Global War on Terror that includes the occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Because of falling reenlistment levels, the United States is finding it difficult to procure sufficient manpower in its efforts overseas. Thus the U.S. government is finding it necessary to reactivate members from the IRR to stave off its shortage of personnel.

Another Iraq War veteran is out of the service finally.
Suzanne Swift who was harassed and command raped attempted to go through channels and get help. The military did nothing. Swift self-checked out -- something any sane person would have done in her situation (a sane person might have also grabbed a gun and shot dead her or his attacker) and when her story was finally known, the military tried to silence and punish her and refused to discharge her. Monday, Veterans For Peace published an e-mail from Sara Rich (Suzanne's mother) explaining Suzanne was finally free: "December 31 marked the last official day of Suzanne Swift's active military duty. She sent me a text message after she finished handing in her signed paper work, "DONE" it read."

Turning to US politics, as
Cedric and Wally pointed out last night, Barack's ready to 'tackle' that mythical Social Security 'crisis.' Patrick Murphy (WSWS) explains, "Barack Obama took the occasion of his first press appearance in Washington as president-elect to declare his determination to impose policies of budgetary austerity, including the elimination of entire federal programs and cost-cutting in the entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that are of vital importance to tens of millions of elderly and poor people." Murphy goes on to warn against the impending "frontal assault on the most important components of what remains of a social safety net in the United States -- the programs that provide at least minimal retirement benefits and medical coverage for tens of millions of elderly people, as well as medical coverage for millions of low-income families." Too busy wallowing in his own filth, The 'Progressive's CEO Matthew Rothschild praises the speech and begins his long belch/gush with, "One of the things I like most about Barack . . ." Do tell, sweetie, do tell. ("Obama Hits Many High Notes in Speech on the Economy" -- no link to trash, Google it if you need a good laugh.) Hillary Is 44 ignores Matty Roth's recommended Kool-Aid (Spineless Saffrow flavored) and declares, "Obama has now revealed what his legacy is to be -- the destruction of Social Security. Ignore the flowery words, Obama is planning a great treachery. Expect PINOs to be silent." Murphy (PUMA Pac) notes, "No wonder the Wall Street Boiz gave so much money to the Precious (ooh, that soft money feels so good). Fat times ahead for them. Hats in hand for the rest of us. Thought it will be rawther amusing to watch teh BOIZ' reaction to this hard swing right." Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) offers this context:

This is of course the same argument that George W. Bush made after the 2004 election, when he sought to sell off Social Security to those same "financial markets" that Obama is now trying so assiduously to soothe. No doubt, we will soon see the old scare stories that filled the media then trotted out once again, this time in "progressive" garb. But the truth remains the same: the programs are essentially sound and can be maintained with only relatively small adjustments for many decades, as far as one can reasonably project into the future. Yet it is here, on "entitlements," that Obama wants to make a "tough stand" on government spending. It will be a "central part" of his entire economic program. Getting "entitlements" under control will be one of the first major campaigns of his administration, he says, promising plans in February, just days after he moves into the White House. At the same time, he promises to expand -- to expand -- the multitrillion-dollar war machine that has literally bled the nation dry. He wants to expand a military-industrial-security complex that already devours more money and resources than every other military force on earth combined. He wants more troops, more weapons, an ever-increasing "global strike capability," an escalation of the endless, pointless "War on Terror" in Afghanistan and Pakistan (for starters). He has never said a single word about "curbing government spending" on this vast conglomerate of death and destruction. He has not said a single word about rolling back even a few of American military outposts that in their several hundreds now cover the entire globe. At every point, it seems, government spending on the war machine -- including the tens of billions of dollars spent in secret each year on the various tentacles of the "national security" apparatus -- will be increased under the Obama administration.No "cutbacks" here then. No concerns that spending in this area might "grow so large as to be unsustainable in the long run." Spending on death and domination is sacrosanct, the true "third rail of American politics," and Obama is not going to touch it -- except to augment it.

Also on Barack, we'll note this from
ETAN:Adm. Blair Poor Choice as Director of National Intelligence, Says Rights Group Blair's History with Indonesia and East Timor Raises Questions about Likely Nominee Contact: John M. Miller, +1-718-596-7668, +1-917-690-4391 Ed McWilliams, +1-703-899-5285 January 7 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) called Adm. Dennis Blair "a poor choice for intelligence director." The group urged President-elect Obama to reconsider the nomination, and make a break from past policies that have undermined human rights worldwide. "During his years as Pacific Commander, Blair downplayed human rights concerns. He actively worked to reinstate military assistance and deepen ties with Indonesia's military despite its ongoing rights violations in East Timor and consistent record of impunity," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. "Admiral Blair undermined U.S. policy in the months preceding the U.S.-supported and UN-sponsored referendum in East Timor in 1999," said Ed McWilliams, a senior U.S. embassy official in Jakarta at the time. "While senior State Department officials were pressing the Indonesian military to end the escalating violence and its support for militia intimidation of voters, Blair took a distinctly different line with his military counterparts. As Pacific Commander, his influence could have caused the military to rein in its militias. Instead, his virtual silence on the issue in meetings with the Indonesian generals led them and their militias to escalate their attacks on the Timorese." "Blair's actions in 1999 demonstrated the failure of engagement to temper the Indonesian military's behavior; his actions helped to reinforce impunity for senior Indonesian officials that continues to this day," added Miller. "The extraordinarily brutal Indonesian retaliation against the East Timorese and the UN teams in East Timor following the Timorese vote for independence from Indonesia transpired in part because of Blair's failure to press U.S. Government concerns in meetings with the Indonesian general," said McWilliams. In April 1999, just days after Indonesian security forces and their militia proxies carried out a brutal churchyard massacre, Adm. Blair delivered a message of 'business-as-usual' to Indonesian General Wiranto, then Commander of the Indonesian armed forces. Following East Timor's pro-independence vote, Blair sought the quickest possible restoration of military assistance, despite Indonesia's highly destructive exit from the territory. Background As Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command from February 1999 to May 2002, Blair was the highest ranking U.S. military official in the region during the final period of Indonesia's violent occupation of East Timor. During that time he undermined the Clinton administration's belated efforts to support human rights and self-determination in the Indonesian-occupied territory and opposed congressional efforts to limit military assistance. In April 1999, Blair met in Jakarta with General Wiranto, then the Defense Minister and the commander of Indonesian forces, just two day after dozens of refugees in a Catholic church in the town of Liquica, East Timor were hacked to death with machetes by militia members backed by the military (including Kopassus) and Brimob troops. Instead of pressuring Wiranto to shut down the militias, Blair promised new military assistance, which the Indonesian military "took as a green light to proceed with the militia operation," according to Allan Nairn, writing in the Nation magazine. In fact just weeks later, refugees from the attack in Liquicia were again attacked and killed in the capital in Dili. Nairn reported that a classified cable summarizing the meeting said that Admiral Blair "told the armed forces chief that he looks forward to the time when [the army will] resume its proper role as a leader in the region. He invited General Wiranto to come to Hawaii as his guest... [Blair] expects that approval will be granted to send a small team to provide technical assistance to... selected TNI [Indonesian military] personnel on crowd control measures." Nairn writes that the last offer was "quite significant, because it would be the first new U.S. training program for the Indonesian military since 1992." Princeton University's Bradley Simpson writes "According to top secret CIA intelligence summary issued after the [Liquica] massacre, however (and recently declassified by the author through a Freedom of Information Act request), 'Indonesian military had colluded with pro-Jakarta militia forces in events preceding the attack and were present in some numbers at the time of the killings.'" In the bloody aftermath of East Timor's independence vote, "Blair and other U.S. military officials took a forgiving view of the violence surrounding the referendum in East Timor. Given the country's history, they argued, it could have been worse," reported the Washington Post's Dana Priest. U.S.-trained Indonesian military officers were among those allegedly involved in crimes against humanity in East Timor. "But at no point, Blair acknowledges, did he or his subordinates reach out to the Indonesian contacts trained through IMET or JCET [U.S.-funded programs] to try to stop the brewing crisis," wrote Priest. "It is fairly rare that the personal relations made through an IMET course can come into play in resolving a future crisis," he told her. Despite Blair's repeated overtures and forgiving attitude to Indonesia's military elite, they were of no help in his post-military role as chair of the Indonesia Commission at the influential Council on Foreign Relations. In 2002, Blair headed a delegation of observers who intended to visit West Papua. The government refused to let them in, with the Foreign Minister declaring that "there is no need for them to come to Papua." The reason was clear: West Papua has become the new focus of Indonesian military and militia brutality and outside observers are not welcome. Though Blair's dream of renewed military engagement with Indonesia has been realized under the Bush administration, the Indonesian military's human rights violations continue, as does impunity for its senior officers. General Wiranto was indicted in February 2003 by a UN-backed court in East Timor for his command role in the 1999 violence. The attack on the Liquica church is among the crimes against humanity cited in the indictment. He is currently a leading candidate for President of Indonesia in elections to take place next year. ETAN was formed in 1991. The U.S.-based organization advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. ETAN was a major participant in the International Federation for East Timor's (IFET) observer mission for the 1999 referendum. For more information see ETAN's web site.

the new york timeseric owles
thomas e. ricks
the los angeles timesjulian e. barnes
elisabeth bumiller
the washington postann scott tysonlizette alvarezerik eckholm
mcclatchy newspapers
leila fadelsam dagherchris floyd
etandennis blair


gaza, bette davis

How can anyone watching Gaza burn escape the bitter realization that history repeats itself? Many have compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to Apartheid South Africa. But not in their cruelest hour did the Apartheid regime wreak such wanton murder and destruction. Let us stop mincing words. What is happening to Palestinians now whispers of Warsaw and Lodz.
Schools, universities, mosques, police stations, homes, water treatment plants, factories, and anything that supports civil society, including the only mental health clinic in Gaza, have been blown to rubble from planes that rain death from clear skies without any resistance, because Palestinians have no opposing air force. Nor do they have an army or navy. No mechanized armor or heavy weaponry. Thanks to Israel, they haven’t even had continuous electricity or fuel for the past two years. Or food and medicine. Israel’s siege and blockade of Gaza has prevented the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, including the import of the most basic goods necessary for survival.
A recent study by the Red Cross showed that 46 percent of Gazan children suffer from anemia. Malnutrition affects 75 percent of Gaza’s population, half of whom are under the age of 17. There has been widespread deafness among children due to Israel’s intentional and frequent sonic booms from low overflights. An alarming number have stunted growth and serious mental disorders due lack of food. The only way they have been able to survive thus far has been due to the tunnels that smuggle food and goods from Egypt.

that's from susan abulhawa's 'Palestinians Will Never Forget' (dissident voice) and i urge you strongly to read the entire thing. you especially need it when the new york times offers crap like this. barak ravid and haaretz note that some 1 is taking the slaughter seriously:

Venezuela expelled Israel's ambassador in Caracas on Tuesday to protest the offensive in Gaza. The move came just hours after President Hugo Chavez called the attacks a "holocaust."

Israel's ambassador to Venezuela, Shlomo Cohen, and his staff were given 72 hours to leave the country.

good. other countries should be doing the same. i wish they were.

al jazeera reports:

The United Nations is to convene its general assembly to discuss the Israeli offensive in Gaza, following days of talks at the security council, Al Jazeera has learnt.
The move comes as members of the security council and Arab ministers on Wednesday discussed an Egyptian-French proposal to end the crisis, in which more than 700 Palestinians have died.

700 is much more like it. but i still believe the figure is much, much higher.

ap notes that cbs, nbc and abc have all not sent their evening news anchors to gaza and that anderson cooper (cnn) just returned and that he returned because israel was limiting his access. of course the israeli government was doing that, they don't want their crimes against humanity broadcast around the world.

let me very clearly state that when the behavior is finally condemned in the u.s. - 2 years, 10 years, 100 years - people are going to ask how america could have enabled it for so long and supplied weapons to israel? because our news outlets refused to tell the truth about what was going on and because so many of us were more comfortable ignoring the story.

so that's the deep stuff. night bloggers are covering movies tonight and the way it works is that

jim, dona, ty and jess of The Third Estate Sunday Review came up with a list of performers and directors, assigned them a number and then asked us to pick a number.

jim told me who i got (i picked 13, i believe they had a list of 50 but it may have been 40) and i didn't believe him. i asked to speak dona. she confirmed jim was telling the truth: bette davis.

i love bette davis and that's why i was sure jim was conning me.

if i'm sick (or miscarrying), i've always taken the bed or couch and watched bette davis. at the worst of it all, she gives me hope i can carry on. i am truly not joking, i am completely serious.

the skeffington film is my least favorite bette davis film. i love everything else including return to witch mountain and the tele-film she did with robert wagner. my favorites are many.

1) of human bondage.

2) all about eve.

3) now voyager.

4) old acquaintance.

5) dangerous.

6) dead ringer

7) jezebel

8) dark victory.

9) the letter.

10) deception. (i love it when she shoots claude raines)

11) the little foxes.

12) all this and heaven too.

13) the star. (she plays a character based on joan crawford)

are you getting the idea that i've seen every bette davis film?

i have.

'what a dump.' that's her famous line from a film. in the film of albee's who's afraid of virginia wolf?, elizabeth taylor asks richard burton 'what picture' that line is from. she goes into this really great performance (this may be elizabeth's best role, i love her in this film) about how bette davis plays a 'housewife' married to joseph cotton. and she comes home from doing errands, sits the groceries on the table and says, 'what a dump.' what's the picture?

they never tell you in who's afraid but it's beyond the forest.

she's a 2 time oscar winner and should have won even more. in many ways, i respect her a great deal more than katharine hepburn. bette's raked over the coals by some for her horror films but at least she was still trying to act. all hepburn spent the 70s, 80s and 90s doing was indicating. you never got 1 damn performance out of her and she's wretched in on golden pond.

and, of all her films, i think storm center most needs a reconsideration. i couldn't understand why that film was so hated. i caught it on tv in the 70s and really enjoyed it - it's a drama and bette's magnificient as the librarian. c.i. explained that it was 'difficult' for cowards to applaud bette and the film because it was dealing with political witchhunts and it was released during mccarthyism, thereby hitting too close to home for many. so i would strongly urge you to check that out if you have seen a lot of bette davis films. that's the unknown gem by comparison.

oh wow. bette has an official website. she passed away in 1989 so i'm surprised. i hope it's her son doing or okaying it. (she and her daughter had an infamous split in the 80s.)

let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'

Wednesday, January 7, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, al-Sadr reportedly issues a call for violence, a US commander calls out the refusal of al-Maliki to fund reconstruction in Anbar, Iraq War veteran and war resister Kimberly Rivera is informed she's to be deported from Canada, and more.

Starting with the press. As
Kat noted last night, incoming and outgoing White House occupants love their fake news. For some strange reason, people are looking the other way. Carol Marin (Chicago Sun-Times) explained Sunday that she and her colleagues in the press have been "[d]eferential, eager to please, prepared to keep a careful distance" and that at Barack's 'news' conferences, "The press corps, most of us, don't even bother raising our hands any more to ask questions because Obama always has before him a list of correspondents who've been advised they will be called upon that day." For those who've forgotten, the staged, fake 'news' conference has a direct relationship to the Iraq War.

"This is scripted,"
joked Bully Boy in the Mrach 6, 2003 press conference (link has text, audio and video) and it was one of the most pathetic performances by the press ever. It was so bad Saturday Night Live parodied it having Rachel Dratch play the dean of White House correspondents Helen Thomas trying to ask real questions and being prevented. "How can you justify bombing innocent Iraqis for oil" led to Helen being chlorformed and she gets hit with a poisoned dart when she points out, "Mr. President, you have not dealt with the main issue! You have yet to speak on the fact that half the people in this country do not want this war!" You can see the dart at NOW on PBS when that bit of the skit was played during David Brancaccio's profile January 16, 2004 of Helen Thomas. The New York Press offered, "After watching George W. Bush's press conference last Thursday night, I'm more convinced than ever: The entire White House press corps should be herded into a cargo plane, flown to an altitude of 30,000 feet, and pushed out, kicking and screaming, over the North Atlantic. . . . Abandoning the time-honored pretense of spontaneity, Bush chose the order of questioners not by scanning the room and picking out raised hands, but by looking down and reading from a predetermined list. Reporters, nonetheless, raised their hands in between questions -- as though hoping to suddenly catch the president's attention. In other words, not only were reporters going out of their way to make sure their softballs were pre-apporved, but they even went so far as to act on Bush's behalf, raising their hands and jockeying in their seats in order to better give the appearance of a spontaneous news conference."

That was an important moment and the PRESS FAILED. They failed in their jobs, they failed journalism, they failed the country and they failed democracy. Was it just too difficult of a moment for them?

The press that caves today and play-acts a 'news' conference for Barack before he's even sworn in is telegraphing that they will not stand up for a free press any more than they did during the last eight years. It is disgusting and it needs to be called. Barack also needs to be called out for his fraudulent practices. That is deceitful. And he's demonstrating that he is just as craven as his predecessor. The press wants to tie a bow around the Iraq War or -- more likely -- shove it in a Hefty trash bag and leave it out on the street, they want to insist they're done and the war is over. That is not reality but it will benefit a president who never technically promised to withdraw all US troops (expect Barack to get a lot of "It depends what your definition of 'is' is" jokes in two years) and has no plans to end the illegal war.

Staying with the responsibilities of the press,
the US broadcast networks want to end their coverage from Iraq. Paul J. Gough (Hollywood Reporter) reports that ABC will hand-off day-to-day coverage for the American Broadcasting Company to the BBC, increasing the ties between the two in sharing coverage that began in 1994: "ABC News president David Westin announced the change Wednesday morning in Baghdad in an email to employees obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. He wrote in the email that Iraq would continue to be an important story for ABC News and 'we will devote all the resources necessary to do the story justice.' ABC hopes that the expanded partnership will free ABC News' resources from daily stories." When Brian Stelter (New York Times) reported on the move by ABC, CBS and NBC to pick up shop in Iraq and move their on-air correspondents to Afghanistan and Pakistan, he noted that a deal for BBC to pick up the slack for ABC might be in the offing but that no one was talking about that at the time. And we'll note this from article: "Joseph Angotti, a former vice president of NBC News, said he could not recall any other time when all three major broadcast networks lacked correspondents in an active war zone that involved United States forces."

From the
December 18th snapshot: "The Committee to Protect Journalists released their end-of-year analysis today and 'the deadliest country in the world for the press' is . . . For the sixth year in a row, the 'honor' goes to Iraq". Yesterday the International News Safety Institute (INSI) released their numbers and they "counted 109 casualties in 36 countries" -- guess who came in first? Iraq with 16 deaths counted by INSI and they note, "A total of 252 news personnel, most of them Iraqi, have now died covering that conflict since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003."

Still on the issue of the press, but turning to Iraq's press.
Alive in Baghdad wonders, "Iraq's Free Press?" in this week's report. Nabeel Kamal and Huda Muhammad explain at the start of the report, "Since Baghdad fell in April 2003, all manner of newspapers have become commonplace. Every opinion or issue has its own newspaper, and many Iraqis are wondering, is this what a free press looks like?" They then ask Iraqis, "What is the impact of these newspapers since 2003?"

Male Iraqi newspaper vendor on the street: There are good and bad, some were good for people, although most of their topics are taken from the internet or satellite TV, and most of the news is fake, most of the time their talk is irrational. It's hard to find in any of the daily newspapers something to educate people about elections, or cholera, or anything that helps people.

Iraqi Male #2: There were still four newspapers before the regime's fall, then there were more coming. I can say the number increased in a terrible way. It's "chaos." Chaos with unlimted freedom, and the difference was clear, due to the shortage of media.

One of the most specific critiques

Iraqi Male #3: We need opposition journalism, journalism that shows the truth. We need journalism to show the suffering of this population. I don't mean to keep talking about the bad things during the ex-regime, but also now there are many bad things, with any government's fall there are plenty of bad things that come to the surface or facilities that break down, so we need true journalism that can clarify the facts and show the destruction, the corruption that is happening, now we need this journalism to educate a new culture.

Their press fails them and refuses to provide the information they need. So democracy never took hold in Iraq but the US did manage to export its press system.
Timothy Williams and Suadad al-Salhy (New York Times) note the upcoming provincial elections scheduled for January 31st, "Provincial councils are roughtly the equivalent of state legislatures in the United States, and the balloting for them is expected to correct underrepresentation in local governments among Sunni Arabs, particularly in areas where there has been heavy insurgent and sectarian violence, including Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala and Nineveh Provinces. Sunni Arabs largely boycotted the 2005 provincial elections." Provincial elections were declared a benchmark by the White House. As 2007 came and went without them, they began pretending otherwise. In September of 2007, Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "Largely gone from the president's speech Thursday was his January insistence that the Iraqi government meet 18 benchmarks and sort out its differences on the most divisive issues in Iraq. In January, the talk was tough: 'America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced,' Bush said then. 'I've made it clear to the prime minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people -- and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act'." This was the so-called "New Way Forward" and it was quickly abandoned. Bully Boy will leave the White House this month and will do so before the January 31st elections are held (if they're held -- this is a puppet government that most recently called of New Year's Eve at the last minute -- damaging a local hotel industry that can't afford to absorb any more losses). The same month Bully Boy was suddenly ignoring the benchmarks (his 18 benchmarks), the US Government Accountability Office was reporting, "The government has not enacted legislation on de-Ba'athification, oil revenue sharing, provincial elections, amnesty, and militia disarmament." That's September 2007. Let's jump a year forward to the September 16, 2008 snapshot for that day's US House Committee on the Budget hearing on Iraq's Budget Surplus and this exchange is between US House Rep Lloyd Doggett and the GAO's Joseph A. Christoff:

Lloyd Dogget: All of us remember, except maybe President Bush, that in January of 2007, he selected the benchmarks, the guidelines by which to measure success, by which to measure victory in Iraq and when we sought an analysis so we would have an objective information instead of just the propaganda from the administration about whether those benchmarks had been met the Congress turned to the Government Accountability Office. And my recollection is that when you came out with your report on August the 30th of last year that you determined that . . . 11 of the 18 benchmarks that President Bush had set were not met. Is that correct?

Joseph Christoff: Based on that prior report correct.

Lloyd Doggett: Yes, sir. And you found that of the 18 benchmarks the president set himself to measure success in Iraq that only three had been met as of August 30, 2007. Now this year, a year later, you did some evaluation again. You did not evaluate every single benchmark but you really found that there had been very little progress in the year. We know that fortunately fewer Americans are being killed there. But in terms of the objective of the Bush policy in Iraq, you had a grand amount of success in that they met one more benchmark than they had the year before, isn't that correct?

Joseph Christoff: Well we didn't go through a benchmark by benchmark analysis but we did provide a report that talked about progess on the security front, the legislative front and the economic front in our June report.

Lloyd Doggett: Right and I believe you found one more benchmark met than the year before.

Joseph Christoff: Again we didn't do a benchmark by benchmark analysis, sir.

Lloyd Doggett: Well if you look at the -- it may not have been called a benchmark analysis -- but you looked at some of the same factors you had the year before. Just to begin to go through them, on the Constitutional Review Committee, you found that they'd formed the committee but the committee hadn't done anything. Right?

Joseph Christoff: And that's still true.

Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met that. On enacting and implementing legislation on de-Baathification you found that they had enacted the legislation but they hadn't implemented and of it, right?

Joseph Christoff: That's correct.

Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met the second benchmark. On the question of enacting the hydrocarbon or oil legislation, you concluded that they had not met that again this year, did you not?

Joseph Christoff: Correct, and no progess this year either.

Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions -- that was the fourth benchmark President Bush had -- you found that that was only partially met. Again they passed a law to allow the provinces to act but it hadn't been implemented.

Joseph Christoff: Well on that one it will be implemented when provinces come together to form regions so that's an open --

Lloyd Doggett: Right, but we're not there yet.

Joseph Christoff: Well no provinces have voted to form regions other than the KRG originally.

Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation for an Independent High Electoral Commission you found only partially meeting it. Again, they passed a law but hadn't implemented it.

Joseph Christoff: The commission was established. The provincial election law -- the date was established for October 1 but the implementing laws have not been enacted.

Lloyd Doggett: Right. And they won't have the elections they've been promising us they'd have for a year in October.

Joseph Christoff: October 1, they will not meet that date.

And even if the provincial elections take place January 31st, they will not be in all the provinces. Iraq has 18 provinces.
Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reported in October, "Iraq's presidency council passed a critical law Wednesday to organize provincial elections that were originally scheduled for Oct. 1 and now are likely to be held sometime early next year. . . . Despite the law's stated deadline of Jan. 31 for elections in 17 of Iraq's 18 provinces, there may be a further postponement, according to the Independent High Electoral Commission." Not only will the January 31st elections not take place in Kirkuk, they also will not take place in Irbil, Dohuk or Suleimaniyya. Only 14 of the 18 provinces will be holding elections and, no, that's not meeting the benchmark even after Bully Boy is out of the White House. Andrea Stone (USA Today -- link has text by Stone and USA Today video by Stone adn Rene Alston) reminds, "And there is the threat of violence. Two candidates have been killed in the northern city of Mosul, including one who was gunned down in a cafe on New Year's Eve. Friday, a suicide bomber killed 23 people at a campaign event south of Baghdad."

US House Committee on the Budget hearing noted earlier was exploring how very little the puppet government in Baghdad had spent. At that time it was expected/estimated by the GAO that Iraq's oil revenues for 2008 would be somewhere between $73 billion and $86 billion (the oil prices dropped significantly after that hearing). Mariam Karouny (Reuters) reported Monday that "Iraq earned about $60 billion from average crude oil sales of 1.85 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2008, a top Iraqi oil official said on Monday." Qatar's Gulf Times gives the figure as $60.9 billion and notes this is a 49% increase from the oil revenues the country brought in for 2007. Also on Monday, UPI reported, "Iraq's Oil Ministry has opened a new pre-qualification application process for firms that didn't pass the cut for the first round of oil and gas field bidding." Along with filling out papers, [PDF format warning] Iraq's Oil Ministry notes that each applicant must pay a $10,000 non-refundable fee ("USD or their equivalent in Iraqi Dinars"). And the never ending illegal war demands more and more money. Andrea Shalal-Esa, David Morgan and John O'Callaghan (Reuters) report, "U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has told members of Congress he believes the Pentagon will need another $69.7 billion to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the remainder of the federal fiscal year." Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg News) examines the monies and notes that "Congress approved $171 billion in fiscal 2007 and $187 billion in fiscal 2008 to fund the war on terror. Costs in Iraq and Afghanistan alone in fiscal 2008 averaged $13.6 billion per month, $10.9 bill of that for Iraq". Newsday adds up the 2009 fiscal year totals: "Military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan would cost almost $136 billion for the 2009 budget year that began Oct. 1 if they continue at their current pace, Defense Secretary Robert Gates says. He told top lawmakers in a New Year's Eve letter that the Pentagon would need nearly $70 billion more to supplement the $66 billion approved last year."

Meanwhile the assault on Gaza continues. Iraqis have taken to the street to protest and officials statements have been issued.
December 30th, the Kurdish Regional Government issued the following:

Unfortunately the recent events in the Gaza Strip have led to violence and war, resulting in the death of a large number of people and heavy damage to properties. This can only increase the humanitarian suffering on both sides and move us farther away from a just and lasting solution. The Kurdistan Regional Government expresses its concern over the escalating violence and our sadness for the loss of life on all sides. We believe that dialogue and a commitment to peaceful negotiations are the only way to resolve these disputes and we hope that all parties will cease violence and open discussions on a cease-fire immediately.

The Foreign Ministry issued the following December 29th:Foreign Ministry Condemns Israeli Brutal Aggression on Palestinians The Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Iraq condemns the Israeli brutal attack against Palestinians that caused many civilian casualties. The act of the Israeli authorities is incompatible with basic international human law and human rights. The Foreign Ministry calls for the United Nations, Arab League, other organizations and the International and Human institutes to stop this aggression. We call for the Palestinian parties to join forces with all good people in the world to protect the rights and interests of the Palestinians and enable them to practice their legal rights according to International Law. And December 31st, they issued:Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari "We Support any Effort Agreed by Arab States Concerning the Israeli Bombing"
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari stated that Iraq supports any effort by Arab states on the Israeli shelling of areas in the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas in a statement to Al-Jazeera on Saturday and that the Iraqi stance is with Arab solidarity and what the Arab countries agreed upon. Minister Zebari added that Iraq would be in favor of any decision in this regard. Israel launched air raids on positions in the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas and killed two hundred people.

AFP states Moqtada al-Sadr has declared that Americans in Iraq are targets as a result of the DC support for the assault on Gaza and they quote him stating, "I ask the Iraqi resistance to engage in revenge operations against the United States, the biggest partner of the Zionist enemy." Asked about the statement in a US State Dept press briefing today, spokesperson Robert Wood stated, "Well, I mean, obviously -- I mean -- any call for attacks against Americans is outrageous and, frankly, not worthy of much more comment. Look, what we're trying to do, as I've said and as Sean [McCormack] has said, is to try to see what we can do diplomatically to reach a long-term solution to this problem. And the Secretary [of State Condi Rice]'s been working very hard on this, others have been, and these types of efforts take time. They're not easy, obviously. And we're going to continue to work with our partners -- and the Secretary has got a full schedule of meetings -- as you can see -- and try to do what we can. But outside calls to attack Americans for what's going on in the region are outrageous." Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports, "A spokesman for the cleric said the words were not intended for all members of the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to Hojatoleslam al-Sadr which has been turned into more of a social services network. Instead, he said, the call was to members of a special unit of fighters that has been maintained."

While al-Sadr reportedly issues that call, another warning comes from a US Maj Gen.
Chelsea J. Carter (AP) interviews Marine Maj Gen John F. Kelly who states that the central government in Baghdad's refusal to spend reconstruction money in Anbar Province qualifies as, his words, "a mission failure." Kelly states, "What the Iraqi government in Baghdad should have done is said Anbar is getting peaceful, let's commit. It drives me to distraction. I would count it as a mission failure."

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a motorcycle bombing that wounded five people and, dropping back to yesterday, 2 Mosul roadside bombings which wounded four people.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Mosul today and 1 yesterday.

Turning to legal news.
Yesterday, the five Blackwater mercenaries charged in the September 16, 2007 Baghdad slaughter appeared in court and entered not guilty pleas. Del Quentin Wilber (Washington Post) reports, "The guards did not speak during their arraignment on 14 counts of voluntary manslaughter, 20 counts of attempting to commit manslaughter and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. They will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years if convicted of the firearms charge." Jesse J. Holland (AP) reports the date set was January 29, 2010 and notes the five charged: "former Marines Donald Ball of West Valley City, Utah; Dustin Heard of Knoxville, Tenn.; Evan Liberty of Rochester, N.H.; and Army veterans Nick Slatten of Sparta, Tenn., and Paul Slough of Keller, Texas." James Risen (New York Times) teams the five appearing in court yesterday with former Blackwater mercenary Andrew J. Moonen whose attorney received a letter of the feds intent to charge him in the shooting death of Iraq's Shi'ite vice president bodyguard (the guard's name was Raheem Khalif). In addition, AP notes that US Sgt. John E. Hatley is being charged in the murders of 4 Iraqis and will face a court-martial and they note that war resister Kimberly Rivera has been ordered to leave Canada by January 27th ("unless the order is reversed"). Rivera is an Iraq War veteran and the mother of three including six week old Katie. Rivera, from the North Texas area originally, self-checked out and went to Canada with her husband and (then) two children. She has spoken out against the war to the Canadian press since February 2007. At her site, she explains, "I love my family and would do anything for them. I am a pasifist. I believe in the WAY! I am a activist. I do not condem, only one can do that. I know that people have the Will to change and are not inheratly bad as i use to think." Kimberly Rivera was the first female war resister to go public once in Canada.

Totally unrelated but Michael Yon covers Iraq and
a recent article of his reports on his friend Aew who was visiting the US from Thailand and the stunts, intimidation and harassment 'Homeland' 'Security' put her through ("Mr. Knapp hides behind a badge bullying a woman whose only activities are Yoga, reading, travel, and telling me what is healthy and unhealthy to eat. Knapp is a face of Homealnd Security. How many other officers at Homeland Security bully 90-pound women, but are afraid to give their own names?"). And we'll go ahead and grab another Iraq topic that relates to security. US Senator Dianne Feinstein is doing her job and getting slammed for it. As Stan noted about Feinstein last night (not related to this topic), we have called her out loudly when we thought she was wrong or failing and we've tried to give her credit when she earned it. (Rebecca's 'miss diane girl-senator' is probably the best example of calling her out.) I know Feinstein very well and that didn't prevent me Monday from posting the information about the protest at her local office. I'll call her out to her face (and have) and will thank her to her face (and have). So this isn't my rushing to rescue someone I know (before the drive-by e-mails come in on that). I know Leon Panetta as well and have never had an ill word or thought about him. There is some hugely sexist coverage going on regarding Dianne Feinstein. Woman-hater Glen-Glen feels she's being 'petulant' and whenever he launches a sexist attack, everyone follows on the premise, "Well he's gay. He can't be sexist right?" Glen-Glen's a pig-pig. To be clear, I'm not referring to press reports like Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick (Washington Post), I'm referring to the Bloggy Boize. Dianne Feinstein is a US Senator. She is the state's senior senator and she is now the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Before she's next trashed in sexist terms, someone might want to stop a moment and grasp that the Senate will confirm the next head of the CIA and if another 9-11 takes place on US soil, the American people will want answers. A position like that must be vetted.

Dianne is doing her job. By contrast, Ron Wyden (who thought he'd be president this time in 2006 -- seriously, he really believed that stood a chance of happening) is an idiot. The Post quotes him stating, "Obama trusts [Panetta] -- that's a huge plus"! Really? Okay, Ron, if there's another 9-11 and you're asked to justify your support for Panetta, remember your response was "Obama trusts him!" Presumably, Barack trusts everyone he plans to nominate -- even those that may have withdrawn their names. If that's the criteria for judging whether or not someone's qualified, why do we need the Senate to confirm any of these appointments.

You better believe, and Dianne knows this, if October 3, 2009, there is an attack on US soil, the questions will immediately go to, "Who was in charge of the intelligence?" If it's Panetta, the immediate follow up will be, "His resume showed no background in intelligence. Why did Barack pick him and why did the Senate confirm him?" And there may be answers to both of those last questions. Valid answers -- not Wyden's Barack-trusts-him! -- and those will come out in the confirmation hearing. (My own personal belief is the CIA should be disbanded.) Feinstein is the chair of the committee. On her shoulders rest the bulk of the responsibility for vetting the nominee. She takes that responsibility very seriously. There is nothing in her public remarks to justify the sexist attacks (and, yes, they are sexist, especially when they portray her as a woman scorned and forget to note, oh, yeah, Jay Rockefeller -- the outgoing chair -- was also surprised the transition team did not approach the committee beforehand).
Here is Dianne Feinstein's public statement in full:

I have been contacted by both President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden, and they have explained to me the reasons why they believe Leon Panetta is the best candidate for CIA Director. I look forward to speaking with Mr. Panetta about the critical issues facing the intelligence community and his plans to address them.

Feinstein can be criticized, she can be called out. People should be calling out her backing of Dennis Blair. But in terms of the Leon Panetta, she is doing her job and it's amazing that Glen-Glen and the others are, in effect, slamming her for doing her job. On war monger Blair, see
ETAN or click here. Feinstein is also correct about Senator Roland Burris. wowOwow (The Women on the Web) quotes Feinstein stating yesterday, "Does the governor [Rod Blagojevich] have the power, under law, to make the appointment? And the answer is yes . . . If you don't seat Mr. Burris, it has ramifications for gubernatorial appointments all over America. Mr. Burris is a senior, experienced politician. He has been attorney general, he has been controller and he is very well respected. I am hopeful that this will be settled." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been the one blocking Senator Burris from being seated. Reid has repeatedly urged the appointments of White people to Senate posts such as Caroline Kennedy and Tammy Duckworth. Ruben Navarrette Jr. (San Diego Union-Tribune via San Jose Mercury News) points out, "Maybe we should broaden the criteria a bit. Let's say that, if you scheme to put your own interests above the interests of a particular racial group relying on racist assumptions about who is electable so the end result is that you exclude members of that racial group, then some might call you a racist. With that as the standard, Reid might have a shot at the title. The Senate majority leader should face facts, seat Roland Burris and salvage what's left of his reputation." The White sheet clad Harry Reid is still stating that Burris will not be seated unless Illinois Secretary of State signs off on Blagojevich's paperwork. Reid asked Jesse White not to sing off on it. And Wendell Hutson (Chicago Defender) reports, "Attorney General Lisa Madigan, acting on behalf of Secretary of State Jesse White, filed a motion with the state Supreme Court that not only said White still would not sign a certification form, as required by the U.S. Senate Rules Committee, but that there is no legal basis to force him to do so." That's a cute little shell game Harry's got going. Tell the state's Sec of State not to sign off on the paperwork, then say you won't seat Burris unless the Sec of State signs the paper. Now the State's AG is declaring, 'That sign-offs, that's US Senate rules! We don't have to follow them!' UPI reports that Barack sent signals today that "the Senate will seat former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris as the junior senator from Illinois."

helen thomasthe new york timesbrian stelter
alive in baghdad
michael yon
the new york timestimothy williamssuadad al-salhymcclatchy newspapers
nancy a. youssefleila fadel
del quentin wilberthe washington postjesse j. holland
deborah haynesthe new york timesjames risenandrea shalal-esadavid morganjohn o'callaghantony capaccionewsdaychelsea carter
andrea stone
ruben navarrette jr.