Rebecca's back next week

Wally here subbing for Rebecca. She'll be back next week. She's already back home and I talked to her face to face tonight. I'm with you because her first thing was to play with her daughter. I told her I'd grab blogging so she could get used to be back from London and relax into her return.

And one thing we were talking about was a column Justin Raimondo (Antiwar) wrote on pundits:

Pundits, I believe, must be held accountable for their past judgements on key matters, and certainly in the age of the internet the pixel trail is easy to follow. Of course, Sullivan is protected by his corporate sponsors, in this case the owners of The Atlantic: he used to run an “independent” web site that was heavily subsidized by Big Pharma. In such circumstances, being not only wrong but spectacularly misaken is cost-less, except in terms of being respected by anyone with any intelligence. It does explain, however, how the most consistently wrong-headed of the pundit class are nonetheless continually rewarded for their wrong-ness, and granted ever greater honors and prestigious pulpits from which to preach the gospel of wrong-headedness.

There is, however, another kind of punditry, one that fulfills the original promise of the internet as a communication device between writer and reader, and it is being practiced right here.

If we were as consistently wrong as Sullivan has been, Antiwar.com wouldn’t have lasted beyond the first few years. Instead of going with the flow, and bending to every wind, our commentary and reporting has consistently gone head-to-head with the conventional wisdom – and been proved right with enviable regularity. That’s why we have readers and supporters who signal their support by contributing financially to the maintenance and upkeep of this site – because we’ve built up a reserve of trust in our good judgement.

You’ll note the Sullivanian evolution from devoted Bushian to slavish apologist for Obama and all His works: just as a flower follows the sun, so Washington’s courtiers turn their faces toward the warming glow of presidential power. A shill for whatever regime is in power, Sullivan and his fellow swimmers in the “mainstream” are dedicated to one thing and one thing only: advancing their paltry little careers. This means flattering the powerful, following the party line, and never stepping outside the bounds of “respectable” opinion.

We, on the other hand, have followed a different path. And that, as Robert Frost – another America First “isolationist” – put it, made all the difference. What enables us to take the path of speaking truth to power is you, the reader, our readers, many of whom have stuck with us though the years, and many more who are new to our pages. We don’t have the big corporate or philanthropic donors, and we’re glad of that: such arrangements always come with strings.

America badly needs the kind of no-strings journalism we’re providing in the vital realm of foreign policy. The “mainstream” media has failed so often, and in so many different ways, that it’s no wonder major newspapers are dying. Now they’re wailing that they deserve government bailouts, too – as a reward, no doubt, for following the government line so assiduously over the years.

We aren’t asking for a government bailout, and wouldn’t take it even if it were offered: what we need is your support. For years we’ve provided the best foreign policy coverage and commentary on the internet: you know you can find out the origins and meaning of the latest crisis by logging on to Antiwar.com. That kind of reliability is worth paying for – so don’t delay, contribute today.

The stand out point above is that the gas bags always stoop to please those in power. You should have heard Jane Mayer on Fresh Air this week. It was so embarrassing, it was so embarrassing even she caught herself and had to start self-correcting.

But you'll notice that if you were of a certain level, she didn't attack you. (And that includes Dick Cheney. Didn't go there, explained his point of view instead.)

And I'm really tired of it. Dems screamed from 2001 through 2008 that the media was biased towards Republicans and a Republican was in the White House. (And the press lost their Bush love by 2008.) Now a Dems in the White House and it's time for Republicans to scream.

But the real crime is that the press kisses ass to begin with. They shouldn't. They should hold people to standards.

And I'm sick of the coin flip dance. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of living through it and I'm sick of voting for it. I'm so 'sick of it' I sound like my former campaign partner Marcia!

And thank goodness I included that aside.

Marcia has repeatedly praised me at her website. I do a humor website so I haven't been able to praise her back but the fact of the matter is she does a great job always and she was a blast to speak with in Indiana and Kentucky. She was nervous her first two days and she handled that and then she just became this amazing speaker. I had a blast speaking with her, I had a blast joking with her in the car and we had a blast watching movies back at whatever hotel we were at. Marcia's a really great person and a really straight forward one. She never hides anything. She's the most open person I've ever known and I consider her to be one of my best friends.

She's praised me and praised me for things I don't deserve praise for and I'm really glad I just remembered to mention her before I stopped guest blogging for Rebecca.

Marcia's a fighter and she's a persuader and she's everything you'd want with a road buddy. And she runs an amazing website on top of all of that.

And now here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, February 12, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, so-called 'elections' appear to be on for March 7th, the BBC trusts Ahmed Chalabi, the appalling silence of peace 'leaders' in the US, and more.
Yesterday, the US military announced a death. The fallen has been identified as 20-year-old Adriana Alvarez. KRGV reports, "CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke to her family. They tell us they didn't want her to enlist and they're having a tough time dealing with her loss." The Brownsville Herald quotes her sister Alma Alvarez saying, "We are devasted" and noes that Adriana Alvarez' survivors include Alma, mother Alicia "and two other younger sisters."
What did she die for? What was she there for? No one can answer that question and note how they run from it. You're 'lefty' gas bags will, from time to time, point out that there was no reason for the illegal war to start but they've all moved on and never grapple with the fact that there is no reason for it to continue. The Iraq War has not ended. Why are US troops still there? What happened to the cry of "Troops Out Now!"? As Chicago Mayor Richard Daley pointed out (see yesterday's snapshot), "Where are they? They've disappeared. What happened? I thought was was evil. Where are the people who believed in their heart against George W. Bush? 'We have to organize and walk down Michigan AVenue and Clark Street.' What happened? I thought they believed in their heart. Oh! It became a political isse. 'Barack won the election, now we go home.' What happened to America?"
And what happened to the peace movement? Betrayed by it's so-called leaders -- bad writers, bad actors, closeted Communists posing as 'independents,' -- a lot of a fakes and a lot of failures but somebody went along with the notion that they were leaders and all they 'led' was the death of the peace movement. They tried to co-opt into the Kerry campaign in 2004 and that didn't work out as well but in 2008 they turned it into the Barack electoral effort and they destroyed it. Tom Hayden, Leslie Cagan, all the failures (including closeted lesbian pretending to be heartbroken over her recent 'breakup' with a man -- that's a double play, by the way, closeted politically and sexually) who got put in charge and led the movement to nowhere.
Tom Hayden, the ultimate "Nowhere Man."
He's a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
-- "Nowhere Man," written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
In a non-think piece for Huff & Post (which only demonstrated the lack of standards at Arianna's site), Tom-Tom opened with, "Barack Obama has faced peril before, particularly during the controversy over Rev. Jeremiah Wright last year, but the crisis he faces now is more systemic." It's 2010 and Tom-Tom. What Jeremiah Wright crisis did Barack faced in 2009? Hmm?
The skin's shot to hell with bumps and lesions now sprouting over the pock marks and the nose is even more bulbous making for a frightening appearance but the truly scary part may be just how far the mind's gone. The mindless whore quickly moves to his next series of 'sentences': "The wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan cost at least 541 American lives in the past year, and the overall total will pass 1,000 this month and likely double before 2012. The unfunded taxpayer cost of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan during Obama's first year was $119.1 billion, and Afghanistan alone will become another trillion-dollar war under his administration." I don't know many that take Scripps College all that seriously but shouldn't someone teaching there know a few basics about writing? For example, if you're going to mention the deaths in one area, you mention in the other. Tom Tom's too busy to be bothered with looking up basic facts and figures. Besides, a shout out to Iraq is more than enough, right? It's not as if he ever grandstanded on Iraq and . . . Oh, wait, he did. Remember his dopey book about the 'pillars' to ending the war in Iraq? Remember all that nonsense? Looking back it was nothing but roadblocks to keep Americans from making real demands on Democratic politicians.
Tom-Tom now wants to write bad columns where we're supposed to believe he's appealing to a politician's higher nature. This is the same Tom-Tom who, in 2006, revealed that he was a tool of the Zionist lobby -- see "I Was Israel's Dupe" at CounterPunch, July 20, 2006. I don't know how else to word that. When you claim, as he did, that you silenced yourself and did so to curry favor with the Israeli government, I'm not sure what else we're supposed to call you. (Other than "Liar!") So Tom was a state legislator -- he never made it higher despite presidential dreams he bored all of us with in the 70s and 80s -- and as a comparatively lowly state legislator, he insists he was controlled. But somehow he wants people to believe they can 'fight the power' and appeal to members of the US Congress and White House's better nature? According to Tom-Tom, as an elected Democrat, he did what he had to do for 'the lobby' and the Democratic Party. And he's still doing what he has to for the Democratic Party which, incidentally, never includes actual work that would end an ongoing war.
Maybe in 20 years he'll scribble "I Was Barack's Dupe"?
In the meantime, Iraqis continue dying, US service members continue dying and Tom continues pontificating in the mistaken belief that one day he'll find someone who mistakes him for a thinker. Tom Hayden was part of the "Out of Iraq now!" brigade . . . when a Republican occupied the Oval Office. Now he's in no rush for the Iraq War to end, it can go on and on and that's okay with him. Gone are the cries to end the war now. Gone is the insistance and the only thing that's changed is the political party of the War Hawk running the illegal war.
What he should be asking is: Why is the US still in Iraq? Barack Obama didn't keep his campaign promises, Barack Obama decided George W. Bush was the person to follow on Iraq. That's what Tom Hayden should be addressing if he had any integrity -- which of course he doesn't. He'll go to his grave providing distractions and excuses for the Democratic Party all the while insisting that he's going to change the party from within. Let's see, we've been hearing that from him since the 60s. Let's see there's been the Campaign for Economic Democracy, Campaign California and now Progressive Democrats for America -- and nothing changed. Not one of those organizations from within as he always insisted they would while hitting up people to fund his pet projects. Over 40 years of his 'changing the party from within' b.s. with nothing to show for it. Nothing.
Tom-Tom hopes everyone can tricked and fooled the way the self-admitted dupe alleges he once was. But people aren't as stupid as Tom-Tom likes to hope they are. Jonathan Katz' "Why ending the occupation of Iraq will take more than Obama's Promises" (The Mac Weekly) notes the realities Hayden hopes everyone is blinded to:

I don't believe Obama when he says we'll be done occupying Iraq and killing and being killed there by 2011 because that's not what we do. He'll withdraw some of the "combat troops" and "re-mission" the rest as "non-combat troops" (these operations include the physical protection "Americans and U.S. assets in Iraq" and "counterterrorism operations in which Iraqi forces would take the lead." That's all to say, they will still be killing and being killed.) We'll get a "lease" from the Iraqi government on some nice plots of land situated between some oil fields, kick up our feet, and have our "non-combat" frogs, our Blackwater toads, and our intelligence snakes go right on violently occupying foreign populations.
Xiong Tong (Xinhua) reports campaigning is underway in Iraq . . . for those not banned in the witch hunt, of course. Of the bannings, Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) quotes Falluja college worker Saria Jassam stating, "It is all politically motivated. Why they didn't revoke their parliamentary immunity one year or two years ago? It is obvious, they know that [Saleh] Al Mutlak is a patriot." Jiang Yuxia adds, "The upcoming parliamentary election is crucial to Iraq's national reconciliation process after a peak of sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007 which left tens of thousands dead in the war-torn country." Yes and, as noted in Wednesday's snapshot, that slaughter followed the last parliamentary election in which . . . candidates campaigned via hatred -- a match lit and tossed on the oil fields. Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) offers some insight into this week's developments:

The legitimacy of the electoral process and the independence of Iraqi institutions have been thrown into serious question among both Iraqis and the international community. Sunni-Shia resentments have been rekindled, with such polarization evidently being seen as a winning electoral strategy in certain quarters. Sunni participation may well be depressed, though a full-out boycott is unlikely. The damage is likely to me measured in increments, not in a single apocalyptic collapse.

Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) offers this view:

As expected and as mentioned in the lines below, the latest news state that Salih Al-Mutlag of the Iraqiiya Alliance has been banned from participating in the elections. I really hope he gets out of Iraq before being murdered.

He and Dhafir Al-Aini both Sunnis have been barred from the elections on charges of Baathism.

That is most strange really because Al Mutlaq left the Baath party back in the 70's. And Iyad Alllawi, a secular Shiite who served as PM during Bremer's time and who is also running on the Iraqiiya list was also a Baathist in the 70's and left the party. How come he was allowed to stay ?

Furthermore, Salih Al-Mutlag ran for the first round of elections in 2005, and ran in the provincial elections. I even remember in 2005, someone approached me and asked me to vote for his list. Of course, I refused to vote for anyone since I do not believe in the electoral process under US/Iranian occupation.

I really believe that the Arab Sunnis and secular forces of Iraq are really in a tight spot now, in particular the Sunnis. If they don't participate in the elections, the sectarian Shiite parties of Iran will have it all for themselves along with the Kurds and this is exactly what is asked for and wanted.

Some say that this may trigger another round of serious sectarian violence and I say this is exactly what is also aimed at because only then can the Americans stay on a little longer and the full partition plan of Iraq into 3 statelets can be turned into an official reality.

BBC News notes, "As posters appeared across Iraq for Friday's start, the fate of more than 170 candidates is still undecided." Will anyone vote? Mohammed Abbas and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) report that "[. . .] Iraqis living with only a few hours of power a day amid mounds of rubbish and pools of sewage are wondering whether to bother voting in a March election." Reuters also offers a look at some of the political parties vying for votes. BBC News' Gabriel Gatehouse decides today to report on the Sunday protest in Baghdad and he still can't get it right. It was an "angry crowd," he tells us and that's supposed to inform? From Monday's snapshot:
As one of the many chicken exiles who pulled the world into a war they were too cowardly to fight on their own, Nouri knows a thing or two about perception management even if Reuters doesn't. Helen Long (Reuters) plays fool or whore -- you decide in a video 'report' on 'thousands' of Shi'ite protesters 'offended' that suspected Ba'athists were running. Helen hopes you don't get your information from anywhere else. Especially not Germany's DPA which tells you what Helen refused to: "Thousands of supporters of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Dawaa Party demonstrated outside the house of parliament in Baghdad on Sunday, to call for the exclusion of 'Baathist' candidates from the March polls." Who were these 'typical' protestors? The governor of Baghdad was among them. Helen whores it and prays the whole world is stupid and doesn't catch on. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports, "Tensions over the dispute flared elswhere, as thousand of protesters attended anti-Baathist rallies in Baghdad and Basra organized by Mr. Maliki's political oranization, the Dawa Party. The Baghdad rally was broadcast at length on state television, showing Mr. Maliki's aides denoucning those sympathetic to the Baath Party".

You get the idea that, given the chance, Helen Long would insist to you that the April 2003 US PSY-OPS operation in Firdos Square where the US military brought down the statue of Hussein amidst a small group of exiles just brought back into the country (by the US) (as well as marines and 'reporters') was a 'legitimate' and 'real' protest by Iraqis. Helen really hopes you're as stupid as she believes you are and that you don't notice -- in the video she narrates!, for example, that these 'average Iraqi protestors' are carrying handmade flags . . . Iraqi flags? No, like any 'normal' and 'average' Iraq, they're carrying home made US flags. Yeah, that's believable. (Also note that the women are covered from head to toe but the men were track suits, dress suits, pullover shirts, etc. while few sport any kind of a bear let alone one would that would demonstrate devout religious beliefs -- translation, Nouri stands for more even more suppression of women's rights.) For those who have miss and long for the combined 'reporting' of Michael Gordon and Judith Miller, breathe easy, Helen Long is on the scene.
Nouri staged the protest and Gabriel can't tell you that but he does make time to interview Ahmed Chalabi -- as if anyone should trust that liar, as if that liar hasn't burned the press enough -- but there's Ahmed as a "trusted source." Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) calls out Gabriel:
And it seems that their Gabriel Gatehouse in the heart of Baghdad is unaware of people being gunned down in broad day light on bogus charges of Baathism nor is he aware that scores of Iraqis are already fleeing the capital and heading towards Syria and Jordan....

That shameless disgusting BBC so reminiscent of the colonial days of the British empire, still uses that same perfidious language and word twisting. BBC you hate Saddam Hussein because he would not bend over for your politicians. You only approve of those whom you can bugger. And some of us Iraqis will not be buggered.

And it seems to me despite all the information in your possession, you still hold that Ahmed Chalabi, the crook, the embezzler and the spy for Iran as a reference and a credible source of information. and that, despite the fact that your f**ked up nation is still inquiring into the " legality " of your going to "war" in Iraq.

You truly have ZERO shame and ZERO ethics.

Earlier this week, Sam Dagher (New York Times) blogged on the KRG gearing up for elections. Also zooming in on that region is "Iraq's dangerous trigger line, Too late to keep the peace?" (The Economist):

FROM the market town of Khanaqin, on the Iranian border, all the way to Sinjar, near the border with Syria, a fortified line snakes across northern Iraq. To the east and north stand Kurdish forces, known as the Peshmerga, keen to reclaim land taken from them by Saddam Hussein more than two decades ago. On the other side of the line, to the west and south, are Iraqi regular-army troops sent by the central government in Baghdad to stop ancient cities along the Tigris river falling into what it fears may become a purely Kurdish sphere.
The two forces have come close to flat-out fighting several times, usually outside the cities where commanders act off their own bat. Last year an Iraqi army unit drove into the disputed, though mainly Kurdish, town of Altun Kupri and took up sniper positions on rooftops. When residents, supported by armed Peshmerga, started demonstrating against their presence, the Arab soldiers were told to shoot to kill. Bloodshed was avoided at the last minute by American troops stationed nearby.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Aref Mohammed and Jack Kimball (Retuers) report that a village near Iraq's border with Iran was stormed by US and Iraqi forces with Maysan Province council member Maitham Laftah stating 10 people are dead and five injured while another count offers 8 dead and three injured: "A Reuters photographer who arrived after the firefight saw bloodstains on the ground and bullet holes in the walls."
Press TV reports Kufa roadside bombings resulted in the deaths of 6 people with thirty-five more injured. Reuters notes a Buhriz car bombing which claimed 2 lives (a father and son).

Meanwhile Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports on the US military beliefs concerning the kidnapping of American citizen Issa T. Salomi by the League of Righteous:

But a senior US military leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, says the kidnapping appears to be a one-off incident possibly sparked by the Iraqi government's recent arrest of two mid-level members of the AAH, which US officials say is backed by Iran.
He said the group, which broke away from the movement of militant Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr after Sadr agreed to a ceasefire in 2008, appears to have further splintered after its leader Sheikh Qais al-Khazali renounced attacks on Iraqi forces and was released from US and Iraqi custody. The release was an apparent exchange for a British hostage and the bodies of three of his bodyguards and seen as key to reconciliation between the Iraqi government and Shiite militant groups.
"What I think has happened…is that there are elements within AAH that are not following any orders from Qais…. We believe it is that element out of that group that is pursuing their kidnapping campaign," says the senior U.S. official.

It's always interesting to watch the US military and US officials -- named and unnamed -- offer takes on what this or that group is in doing in Iraq -- you know, as opposed to what Iraqis think the groups doing in Iraq. For example, many don't buy the idea of a 'splinter group' -- or that al-Sadr 'ridded' his organization of the militias.

To stick with the US position presented in the article, so the League of Righteous allegedly felt shut out of the 'political process' and, in their anger/depression/rage, decided that they could best have a 'voice' and get their way via violence? Well wherever could they have learned that? From a US administration that ordered the US military to release the ringleaders of the organization despite the League's claims of responsibility (bragging, actually) for the death of 5 US service members in a raid on a base?

3 dead British citizens and 1 alive also proved to be very beneficial for the League.

Maybe that's why you have to be very careful about entering into negotiations with those who resort to violence? Concerned because of the message you send and the message the current US administration sent by releasing the ringleaders and others starting in June of last year was: Violence means you get your way.

In England, the Iraq Inquiry is in recess but Simon Vezey (Epoch Times) notes John Chilcot, Chair of the Committee, and others' statements to offer:

One exchange hinted that the panel had access to secret documents revealing that George Bush planned to attack Iraq even if Iraq complied with inspectors and was in compliance with the crucial UN resolution 1441.
Sir Lawrence Freedman had asked Mr Straw: "Was there any point where Powell said to you that, even if Iraq complied, President Bush had already made a decision that he intended to go to war?"
When Mr Straw said this was not the case, "to the best of my recollection", and talked more broadly around the question, Sir Lawrence pressed him a few times on the issue.
Sir Lawrence Freedman said: "I was going to suggest you might want to look through your conversations and check."
"I will go through the records, because I think you are trying to tell me something," said Mr Straw.
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
Even with the recent outpouring of support for earthquake victims in
Haiti, Americans' attention span for global crises is usually very
short. But is there a way to keep American audiences from tuning out
important global issues of violence, poverty, and catastrophe far beyond
their backyards? On Friday, February 12 at 8:30 pm (check local
listings), NOW talks with filmmaker Eric Metzgar about "Reporter," his
documentary about the international reporting trips of New York Times
columnist Nicholas Kristof. In the film, Metzgar provides fascinating
insight into how Kristof breaks through and gets us to think deeply
about people and issues half a world away.

Staying with TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen are Dan Balz (Washington Post), Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), Janet Hook (Los Angeles Times) and David Sanger (New York Times). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Genevieve Wood to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:

Nowhere in the world can such a concentration of power be found than at the World Economic Forum's meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where the world's most powerful and influential people gather yearly to try to solve the world's most pressing problems. Scott Pelley reports.

Made In The USA
Could crucial parts of the equipment Iran is using in its uranium enrichment facility have come from the U.S.? American law enforcement authorities say sensitive devices and electronics that could be used in weapons of mass destruction are being smuggled into Iran. Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video

Pigeon Fever
It's been just over a year since Bernard Madoff's multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme fell apart. But, as Morley Safer reports, despite all the news about the Madoff scandal, similar Ponzi scams are still thriving. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.


The selling of ambassadorships

Wally here subbing for Rebecca tonight and tomorrow night and she'll be back on Monday (that's a given now, not speculation).

I know you've all missed her and I thank those of you who've stuck around while I've filled in. I've missed her too so don't think you're alone in wishing, "I wish Wally would go away!" :D

Did you see the article at Media Freedom Foundation about Barack selling ambassadorships? I wasn't surprised that he was doing it but I did find this part very interesting, "William E. Kennard, Carlyle Group executive and former Federal Communications Commission chairman is Obama’s choice to be U.S. representative to the European Union, a position that carries the rank of ambassador. Solomont along with his family has donated about $1.8 million since 1989 all of which has gone to Democrats."

B-b-but Naomi Klein and the other beggars of Panhandle Media told us Carlyle Group was all Republicans!!!!!

No, it's both. It's always both. The two major parties control everything and those at the top are corrupt. Which is why Naomi really embarrassed herself by whoring for Barack.

I have a theory about her weight gain: She can't stand to look at herself and thinks if she looks different (a) she's punishing herself and (b) disguising herself.

But you can't run from who you are or, Naomi Klein, what you did?

And here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, February 11, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the press thinks they've caugh Joe Biden in an embarrassing moment, the press ignores a public lie told by Robert Gibbs, the US military announces a death, Saleh al-Mutlaq is announced banned, and more.
In one of the more suprising domestic war developments, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has called out the apathy on the part of the peace movement. WBEZ provides audio clips.
We always believe America is number one. If you start the first World War, the Second World War, then you take Korea and Vietnam and Iraq I and II and Afghanistan -- just think of all the money that we spend on wars to save the world. Today we can't save America. What is this? Why do we always have to go to war continually? Why can't we rebuild America? Why is it we have to take three hundred, four hundred billion dollars and tell people we're only going to be there for a year and we're coming home and we declare victory. What is it? What is it about America? How did we start this century of ten years of war? Ten years of war. We started it and we continue to move forward. Where are the anti-war people? "I looked down at the [. . .] center" -- where are they? Where are they? They've disappeared. What happened? I thought war was evil. Where are the people who believed in their heart against George W. Bush? 'We have to organize and walk down Michigan Avenue and Clark Street.' What happened? I thought they believed in their heart. Oh! It became a political issue. 'Barack won the election, now we go home.' What happened to America?
Cate Cahan (WBEZ) notes "that his son Patrick is being redeployed in the U.S. Army. War looms large when it looms close." Earlier this week, Fran Spielman (Chicago Sun Times) quoted Daley stating, "My son had a responsibility. He served four years in the military, and he's re-deployed. He will serve his country just like evry other son and daughter in this country does the same thing." And Spielman added, "The mayor made it clear that his son did not re-enlist, but was summoned back to active duty."
Staying with US politicians, Jake Tapper, you're sleeping on the job. Robert Gibbs pulled his usual song and dance today. Suprisingly Jake Tapper fell for it. The most recent start point is last night when US Vice President Joe Biden appeared on Larry King Live (CNN -- here for transcript). Asked by Larry about Pakistan, Biden included the following in his answer:
I am very optimistic about -- about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration. You're going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You're going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government. I spent -- I've been there 17 times now. I go about every two months -- three months. I know every one of the major players in all of the segments of that society. It's impressed me. I've been impressed how they have been deciding to use the political process rather than guns to settle their differences.

Andrew Malcolm (Los Angeles Times) noted (this morning, one of the first) that Biden was calling something a 'success' that may not have been what he originally advocated for with Malcolm reminding that Biden advocated for the region to split into three areas -- Sh'ite, Sunni and Kurds. In fairness to Biden (I know Joe but I'm not playing 'rescue' here), he saw it as federaslim and also he dropped this before he dropped out of the Democracy Party primary (in his bid for the presidential nomination). This came to the Senate floor and he had stated publicly before the vote that if it didn't pass, it didn't pass. When it didn't pass, he was done advocating for that plan barring some change and he's made no public statement of any change taking place. Malcolm notes Barack pushed a measure to end the Iraq War -- a meaningless measure and Barack knew it, which Malcolm leaves out -- and that Barack opposed the so-called 'surge' -- Barack opposed it so did many Democrats. Malcolm gives the surge credit for ending the genocide but the surge didn't do that -- not in any helpful way. By the time the surge starts, you already have a refugee population of 4 million and many, many dead. The surge backed up the Shi'ite government. It didn't end the genocide (popular known as a civil war). Malcolm observes, "Now, the Obama-Biden pair that opposed the Iraq war and its tactics and predicted their failure is prepared to accept credit for its success." Joe made a dumb statement. I think of the world of him and I do understand where he's coming from when he says that. I happen to disagree with the statement but it was a dumb statement just because so many would seize upon it. And should. Andrew Malcolm and others in the press aren't behaving unfairly or cruel. And they are asking about the statements.
Now let's go to Jake Tapper's take. Tapper covers what Malcolm has -- including a link to this statement from about Barack being opposed to the 'surge' (and I'm not a Barack fan, by any means, but Barack was correct in 2007 and it's too bad that, in 2008, he wasn't able to stick to that and explain why the surge was a failure when interviewed by Katie Couric). Now here's Tapper on the White House press briefing today by Robert Gibbs and community members should grasp what Tapper doesn't:
Gibbs said the achievement was "putting what was broken back together and getting our troops home, which we intend to do in August of this year."
A reporter pointed out that the Status of Forces Agreement to bring troops home was signed before the president took office.
Gibbs called that agreement "something I think that the political pressure that the president, as a then-candidate, helped to bring about."
Did you catch it because Jake Tapper didn't. And it's the sort of thing that really makes me scream but we'll be kind. Gibbs said Barack's campaign "as a then-candidate, helped to bring about" the SOFA. (So-called SOFA.) For that to be true, candidate Barack would have had to have supported the SOFA.
But Barack didn't support it. Barack opposed the Status of Forces Agreement as a senator and as a presidential candidate. So did Joe Biden. So did every, EVERY, senator on the Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee. This is public record and should be well known. Should be.
Robert Gibbs is a damn liar. Robert Gibbs damn well knows Barack opposed it and CAMPAIGNED on his opposition to it. We can go through all of this if the press can't do their own work but hopefully they'll catch their error and we can just note November 18, 2008 -- after the US presidential election -- when Barack suddenly changed his mind:
During the election, the Obama-Biden campaign website revealed their stance on the so-called SOFA in "Plan for Ending the War in Iraq:"

["] The Status-of-Forces-Agreement

Obama and Biden believe any Status of Forces Agreement, or any strategic framework agreement, should be negotiated in the context of a broader commitment by the U.S. to begin withdrawing its troops and forswearing permanent bases. Obama and Biden also believe that any security accord must be subject to Congressional approval. It is unacceptable that the Iraqi government will present the agreement to the Iraqi parliament for approval--yet the Bush administration will not do the same with the U.S. Congress. The Bush administration must submit the agreement to Congress or allow the next administration to negotiate an agreement that has bipartisan support here at home and makes absolutely clear that the U.S. will not maintain permanent bases in Iraq. ["]

Post election, Change.gov was set up as the official website for the Barack-Biden transition and if you pull up "The Obama-Biden Plan," you will find:

["] The Status-of-Forces Agreement
Obama and Biden believe it is vital that a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) be reached so our troops have the legal protections and immunities they need. Any SOFA should be subject to Congressional review to ensure it has bipartisan support here at home. ["]
I like Joe so I'll stop there (and also note that Joe didn't refer to the SOFA on Larry King). But Barack opposed the SOFA -- the SOFA doesn't end the illegal war and it should have been opposed, it was another move by Bush to do an executive power-grab and render the legislative branch obsolete.
Robert Gibbs lied to the press and claimed candidate Barack allowed the SOFA to come to be. No, he didn't. He opposed the SOFA as it was rammed through by Bush (and he was right to oppose it). Only after the election did the SOFA suddenly become 'okay' with Barack. Had Barack campaigned in 2008 honestly and stated, "We want to end the war now! But I'm going to follow Bush's plan" you can rest assured that even some of his whores -- maybe even Tom Hayden -- would have either rejected him or have to learn to kiss their own asses a little deeper. Tom-Tom, of course, can toss his own salad and does so frequently. The difference between Bush's 'plan' and Barack's is why Jennifer Loven and Liz Sidoti (AP) can note Barack's "big calls for change are unfulfilled in almost every way. . . . America is still at war in Iraq. U.S. combat troops are supposed to be out by this August by the latest presidential deadline -- later than candidate Obama had planned."
Ryan Grimm made an ass out of himself on MSNBC insisting that the right-wing was being a hypocrite for refusing to give Barack credit on Iraq while insisting he was responsible for the economy, unemployment, deficits and the Big Business bail out. Ryan Grim's a damn fool and a damn liar. He works at Huffington Post which pretty much tells you all you ever need to know about his 'qualifications.' Barack is responsible for the Big Business bail out -- after the election, he strong-armed the Black Caucus into supporting it. He is president, that makes him responsible for the unemployment rate, the deficit and everything else. Sorry if that's too damn hard for little Ryan to grasp. As for Iraq? Bush implemented the 'plan' and Barack's following it. It's not a good 'plan' and if you're going to praise it, you better explain why all the sudden George W. Bush is the man to praise on Iraq? Ryan Grimm's a damn idiot -- and a smelly one at that. (Note to Arianna, speak to your people about public hygiene.)
Things are not wonderful for Iraqis. World Focus offers a video report by Charity Tooze:
Ali Katheem: All those who are hearing me, I wish you could remove me and my family from the situation. I can't sustain this and I hope this year something happens.
Charity Tooze: Ali Katheem and his family live in Syria. There one of the thousands of Iraqi families that have been displaced by violence. Ali said he would have been killed if they'd stayed in Iraq. In 2006, a milita group moved into the Katheen's neighborhood and began threatening the family.
Ali Katheem: They said you're sectarian, you're Shi'ite, you're done, you cannot live near us. This week, if you don't leave, we'll kill you.
Charity Tooze: After the initial threats Ali said gunmen began trespassing on his property. He said they heard gunshots all the time.
Ali Katheem: When this happened, I would put my children and wife in a closet and lock them in. I would sit with two machine guns on either side of me in case they came in, so they wouldn't kill my family.
Charity Tooze: When the family decided to flee to Syria, their quality of life quickly went from comfortable to poor and Ali, like all Iraqi refugees, is not legally allowed to work. This is not the first time Ali has experienced adversity. As a young man, he fought in the Iran-Iraq War. When a bomb hit him, he lost his left forearm. Yet Ali went on to become a champion. He trained as a professional runner and in 1990 was the first Iraqi to win a Gold and Silver medal in the Holland . . . [Olympic Festival].
Ali Katheem: Champion of the world. In handicap. Gold medal, 400 meter. Silver medal, 200 meter.
Charity Tooze: But now Ali feels powerless. The country receives the equivalent of 200 US dollars monthly in cash assistance from the UNHCR. Their rent alone is approximately $250. In order to make the rest of their rent, they sell half their food rations. Not only are the Katheen's living in poverty but their children continue to struggle to make sense of their past.
Daughter: Once we were traveling, someone died. Me and my mother went and saw him. He was dead in front of us, so I still remember it and I kept dreaming about it.
Charity Tooze: In addition to psychological trauma, the children have struggled with school. This year Hussein dropped out to help the family pay the rent.
Things are not wonderful in Iraq. Today the International Press Institute released their latest report on press freedom and they found the first decade of the 21st journalist had claimed the lives of 735 journalists with 170 of those having been "killed in Iraq, making it the most dangerous country in the world for journalists in the last ten years." This comes as Iraq continues to crack down on journalism. Alsumaria TV reports that the Ministry of Industry and Minerals is insisting it did not shut down a paper in Basra.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a Mosul roadsdie bombing claimed 1 life, a Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured
Reuters notes an attack on a Mosul security checkpoint resulted in the death of 1 police officer and, dropping back to Wednesday for both incidents, an armed clash in Haditha resulted in three police officers and two assailants being injured and 1 imam was shot dead in Baghdad.
Today the US miltiary announced: "A United States Forces-Iraq Soldier died Feb. 10 of non-comabt related injuries. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/. The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incidnet is under investigation." The announcement brings to 4376 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.
Yesterday, 10th February 2010 in various districts of Baghdad, 25 Baathists have been gunned down with silencers, silent guns by the Badr Brigades of Ammar Al-Hakeem (ISCI) of Iran.

Sunni areas in Baghdad are being evacuated.: Amiriya is practically empty now, people are getting very scared because a lot of the men are being arrested.

Again yesterday at 6.30 pm, 12 Baathists have been arrested in Sammara by Badr Brigades.

Warning : A massive campaign of liquidation and/or arrest has started by the Iranian trained, backed and funded Shiite death squads. As promised by Nouri Al-Maliki.when he said " any Baathist will be meeting his/her black fate ".

We are expecting more bloodshed of Sunnis/and seculars under the pretext of a Baathist witch hunt.
UPI reports, "The Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission moved forward with preparations for March parliamentary elections by printing ballots in January despite the objections. IHEC has now released the names of 6,172 approved candidates for the March elections, reports historiae.org, a Web site devoted to Iraqi analysis." Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports the list does not include Sunni's Salah al-Mutlaq and Dhafir al-Ani. Quoted in the article is Ali al-Lami who never admits to being Ahmed Chalabi's lover, boyfriend, boytoy, sexpot or friend with benefits. Thus far.
al-Mutlaq was running as part of the nationalist party the National Dialogue Movement, a non-sectarian party and a strong rival to Liltte Nouri. Tom McGregor (Dallas Blog) informs that neocon Michael Rubin is a strong cheerleader for Chalabi. Ali al-Lami, watch your back. The UN today issued a statement which included:
The top United Nations envoy to Iraq today called on the country's political leaders to step up their efforts to ensure that next month's Council of Representatives election is free and fair, with campaigning for the polls set to start tomorrow.
Calling on them to safeguard the integrity of the democratic process, Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, underscored that each institution involved in the 7 March elections must operate free of political interference.
"The consolidation of democracy in Iraq will depend on the willingness of Iraq's political leaders to collective ensure a transparent, peaceful election," he stressed.
It's a little late in the day for that announcement. Trudy Rubin (Post Bulletin), whom no one could ever accuse of flying off the handle or jumping to conclusions, offers, "Iraq is holding elections in March that will test whether it has moved beyond the vicious sectarian divisions of the past. Prime Minister Maliki claims that is what he wants. U.S. officials are holding their breath." Meanwhile at Gulf Daily News, Finian Cunningham observes:
While Obama makes a big deal about earmarking $100 billion to tackle unemployment, a much understated but much bigger deal is the allocation of $160bn for America's wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Combined with the regular Pentagon annual budget, that puts US total spending on "defence" (meaning aggression) at $710bn over the next year - 700 per cent more than what it will spend on creating jobs.
To put this largesse in another perspective, US military spending compares with a federal education budget of some $220bn - that is, three times more of the taxpayers' money is spent every year on invading countries, expanding global bases, blowing up villages, testing missile interceptors etc, than developing the talents of young Americans.
What these figures show is not just that the infamous US military-industrial complex is alive and well; they show that the American economy is fundamentally a war economy. While its people are struggling to maintain some modicum of livelihood - jobs, homes, healthcare, education - what is evident more than ever to them is that the year-on-year inordinate US government spending on its military is far from "discretionary". It is compulsory.
Francis Boyle, Professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, discusses his legal Complaint demanding the prosecution of Bush administration officials for crimes against humanity, the International Criminal Court's (ICC) jurisdiction over crimes committed by the US in ICC-member countries, the "Marty" report that catalogs the US practice of "extraordinary rendition" and how a less-desirable international prosecution is the result of the Obama administration's failure to uphold the rule of law.
MP3 here. (20:59)
Francis Boyle is a Professor and scholar in the areas of international law and human rights. He is the author of Tackling America's Toughest Questions: Alternative Media Interviews, BREAKING ALL THE RULES: Palestine, Iraq, Iran and the Case for Impeachment and many other publications.
Professor Boyle received a J.D. degree magna cum laude and A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in political science from Harvard University. Prior to joining the faculty at the College of Law, he was a teaching fellow at Harvard and an associate at its Center for International Affairs. He also practiced tax and international tax with Bingham, Dana & Gould in Boston.
He has written and lectured extensively in the United States and abroad on the relationship between international law and politics. His Protesting Power: War, Resistance and Law (Rowman & Littlefield Inc. 2007) has been used successfully in anti-war protest trials. In the September 2000 issue of the prestigious The International History Review, Professor Boyle's Foundations of World Order: The Legalist Approach to International Relations (1898-1922) was proclaimed as "a major contribution to this reinterrogation of the past" and "required reading for historians, political scientists, international relations specialists, and policy-makers." That book was translated into Korean and published in Korea in 2003 by Pakyoungsa Press.
As an internationally recognized expert, Professor Boyle serves as counsel to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the Provisional Government of the State of Palestine. He also represents two associations of citizens within Bosnia and has been instrumental in developing the indictment against Slobodan Milosevic for committing genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Professor Boyle is Attorney of Record for the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, conducting its legal affairs on a worldwide basis. Over his career, he has represented national and international bodies including the Blackfoot Nation (Canada), the Nation of Hawaii, and the Lakota Nation, as well as numerous individual death penalty and human rights cases. He has advised numerous international bodies in the areas of human rights, war crimes and genocide, nuclear policy, and bio-warfare.
From 1991-92, Professor Boyle served as Legal Advisor to the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Peace Negotiations. He also has served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International, as well as a consultant to the American Friends Services Committee, and on the Advisory Board for the Council for Responsible Genetics. He drafted the U.S. domestic implementing legislation for the Biological Weapons Convention, known as the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, that was approved unanimously by both Houses of the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. That story is told in his book Biowarfare and Terrorism (Clarity Press: 2005).
In 2001 he was selected to be the Dr. Irma M. Parhad Lecturer by the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary in Canada. In 2007 he became the Bertrand Russell Peace Lecturer at McMaster University in Canada. Professor Boyle is listed in the current edition of Marquis' Who's Who in America.
Currently Professor Boyle lectures on international law at the University of Illinois College of Law.
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
Even with the recent outpouring of support for earthquake victims in
Haiti, Americans' attention span for global crises is usually very
short. But is there a way to keep American audiences from tuning out
important global issues of violence, poverty, and catastrophe far beyond
their backyards? On Friday, February 12 at 8:30 pm (check local
listings), NOW talks with filmmaker Eric Metzgar about "Reporter," his
documentary about the international reporting trips of New York Times
columnist Nicholas Kristof. In the film, Metzgar provides fascinating
insight into how Kristof breaks through and gets us to think deeply
about people and issues half a world away.


Union leaders are shocked, shocked!

Wally here subbing for Rebecca who plans to be blogging this Monday night. And, rest assured, Barack will still be disappointing everyone on the left except for those of us who long ago realized he is a Corporatist War Hawk. This is from James Hohmann's "Unions bash Democrats, warn of political fallout" (Politico):

The Senate’s failure to confirm labor lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board was just the latest blow, but the frustrations have been building for months. So the unions are now thinking that maybe there is a problem?



Barack purposely went after union health care plans (calling them "Cadillac plans") and now we're thinking maybe Barry O didn't do enough to help the working class? The unionized labor?

Let me explain it to you, Union leaders, your rank and file have caught on. They know Barack's not for them. They see who gets the bail out and who gets the stick. It happens over and over. It never stops.

Rank and file needs to kick the leaders in the ass until they wake up to reality: They have no seat at the table. They're not even at the kid's table. They're at the front door, knocking and asking each other, "Are you sure he's home? Are you sure he's home? I think I see someone in there."

If historical patterns hold, Republicans will show some gains in the mid-terms (due to being the party not in control of the White House). It would be smart for every left grouping to be laying down right now that they may stay home. That way when the Republicans gain, say 15 House seats and 4 Senate seats, unions and other scan say, "See, we told you people would stay home. Now you've got two years -- until 2012 -- to show some results are our people are staying home in 2012 too."

Now here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, a pipeline is targeted, a reporter is finally released from US military custody, Little Nouri Stirs Up Big Trouble sening his military into a province, Blackwater out of Iraq (kind of, sort of) and more.
Starting with oil, AFP reports that a pipeline which routed crude oil to a Baghdad refinery had just returned to providing oil when it was attacked in Rashidiya last night according to the Minister of Oil Hussein al-Shahristani. Reuters notes that no estimate was given on when the pipeline might be fixed and that the Minister of Oil claimed it transfers 50,000 barrels of oil per day. Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) reports an estimate has since been given for the repairs and the pipeline to be back up and running, sometime in "the next few days". Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraq Minister of Oil Hussain Shahristani said that Iraq is about to establish a new fourth Public Oil Company in order to supervise developing oil fields and that after the Ministry finished from signing 10 contracts with foreign companies. The Ministry hopes that this way it would be able to raise the production rate to 12 million barrels per day."
Reid Smith (The Daily Caller) sees the oil and the elections scheduled currently for March 7th as intertwined noting, "Legal opinion in Iraq regarding the legality of these contracts is essentially split between allies and opponents of al-Maliki. The prime minister's State of Law coalition which surged in last January's provincial elections and remains a parincipal contender in the March ballot, will ensure the auctioned parcels if it maintains control of parliament. However, hydrocarbon laws governing Iraq's oil wealth, the third largets in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Iran, have not been passed yet, and an influx of blacklisted candidates might have soured the existing deals." NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (Morning Edition -- link has audio and text) reports on the response to the illegal war in Anbar Province: Saddam Hussein is missed:

The reason, residents say, is disillusionment with the current Shiite-led government and the local Sunni provincial council. Anbar suffered years of brutal war that pitted U.S. forces against al-Qaida and other insurgents. Now, it's less violent. But people like Zaid say life is still hard, with few services and no jobs.
"It is only now that we have discovered how valuable Saddam was to us," Zaid says. "People have compared the situation before to the situation now. And then was better."

This is not a surprising response for Anbar or any other region in Iraq. Saddam Hussein could be 100% evil and the US forces could be 100% angels. It wouldn't matter. Hussein is the past and just being the past, and now a closed chapter, gives it an ending point. There is no ending point for the daily struggle of life in Iraq today. And not only are the people suffering but they're suffering under exiles put into place by the US. They're not represented by Iraqis, they're represented by malcontents, little cowards who fled Iraq and returned only after the US forces invaded. They've never given a thing for Iraq and the people of Iraq are well aware of it.

You can't install leadership.

That's true anywhere. That's true in a work environment. If you have people already there and you repeatedly promote from outside, bring in from outside, you're asking for trouble.

The Saddam posters are not signs of a return of the Ba'ath Party -- or even the Ba'ath Party as it was. Little Nouri is correct to see it as a rejection of him but it's not an embrace of any form of Ba'athism. However, refusing to allow the banned candidates to run in the elections will help start an underground Ba'ath Party. That's not a 'prediction,' that's a basic reality and there's not anyone that's familiar with politics and revolution and rebellion that wouldn't see that as well. If Little Nouri wants to bring back the Ba'ath Party, he just needs to ensure that Iraqis see him refusing to allow candidates to run. By tarring the rejected/banned candidates with the Ba'ath label, he provides all the building blocks for resistance. As the Los Angeles Times' Liz Sly noted last month (January 27th) on KRCW's To The Point, "And the Ba'athist is the big bogey man in Iraq, if you like, right now. You've got this political campaign that's been going on, as you referred to earlier, to exclude Sunni can -- well, they're not just Sunni, but they're secular candidates and a lot of them are Sunni who they have accused of having links to the Ba'athists and there's this political effort to exclude them from the elections. At the same time, you're seeing the government blame Ba'athists for explosions and the effect that that is having is it is -- it is really opening up the sectarian divide again because Shia associate the Ba'athist with the Sunni and people think this is going to make them more likely to vote with the Sh'ite colation like they did before in the last election." Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) explains, "OK first and foremost, most important piece of news, confirmed news, which you will obviously not be reading about in your media. -- for the month of January 2010 ALONE, there have been over 1625 sectarian arrests." She goes on to note some additional figures:
- 6'500 candidates for
- 350 parliamentary seats
- 50'000 voting locals inside of Iraq
- 320'000 "observers".
- Iraqi army and police which make up 1 million individuals will be voting in separate ballots. - important to remember this point, bearing in mind that army and police are most, if not all, affiliated to the Shiite parties,
- and now for the last point and a very important one too : again as per official government figures
only 18 million Iraqis are eligible to vote BUT 26 million voting cards have been issued so far. Observers ask why this is so -- hope you do too.
Little Nouri seems determined to be seen as "the new Saddam." Steven Lee Myers and Anthony Shadid (New York Times) report that he sent the Iraqi military into Tikrit last night and that they remain in Tikrit. An uprising? A rebellion? More smoke and mirros about madcap former Ba'athists? No, he sent in the troops "-- for the second time -- to exert his influence in choosing a new governor" for the province. What's the result? You have US forces attempting to help and calm members of the province's council, telling them (rightly) that they have the law on their side. US forces need to leave Iraq. If that's not clear to you, you're not paying attention. Little Nouri's now going after the people -- as members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee suspected he would in 2008 -- Russ Feingold, Joe Biden, basically everyone warned against this happening -- Democrat or Republican, they all warned about this happening. Where was the press? These were open hearings. Where was the US press? Norm Coleman (no longer a member of the Senate -- Al Franken won the seat when he ran against him) voiced it. This cut across party lines and the press didn't feel like the American people needed to know?
The events reported by Steven Lee Myers and Anthony Shadid are very disturbing because this is the first steps outlined by Democratic and Republican senators serving on the Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee repeatedly in 2008. It was covered in the snapshots if we were at the hearings. Example, April 10, 2008 snapshot:
Biden noted that those appearing before Congress keep stating that the agreements "aren't binding to us but, in Iraq, they think we mean it . . . because otherwise we wouldn't be having this kind of discussion." Biden noted the "internal threat" aspect being proposed and how these requires the US "to support the Iraqi government in its battle with all 'outlaw groups' -- that's a pretty expansive commitment." He noted that it requires the US "to take sides in Iraq's civil war" and that "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out."
"Just understand my frustration," Biden explained. "We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist." Senator Russ Feingold wanted to know if there were "any conditions that the Iraq government must meet?" No, that thought never occurred to the White House. "Given the fact that the Maliki government doesn't represent a true colation," Feingold asked, "won't this agreement [make it appear] we are taking sides in the civil war especially when most Iraqi Parliamentarians have called for the withdrawal of troops?" The two witnesses didn't appear to have heard that fact before.
At this point the US military is now having to protect the citizens and the rule of law from . . . Iraq's prime minister. And how long do you think that's going to last?
Little Nouri is out of control. Steven Lee Myers and Anthony Shadid report, "In just the last week, Mr. Maliki's government has acted with, at best, disputed legal authority. In Diyala, a leading candidate from one of the main blocs challenging Mr. Maliki's party, known as State of Law, was arrested on Sunday night by special forces sent from Baghdad only days after participating in a recorded debate in which he criticized the security forces. Warrants are said to have been issued for five other members of that province's legislature on charges that remain unclear." Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports contractors "linked to Blackwater Worldwide" have been ordered out. This grand standing might have mattered in September 2007. All the order does now is underscore how inept Nouri is. Who are these Blackwater employees? Uh, it's not Blackwater. See banning the ones involved in the shooting? That would have made since. Banning Blackwater (now Xe) would have made sense. That's not what's happened. Approximately 250 contrators who, in September 2007, worked for Blackwater are being kicked out. They don't work for Blackwater today. But they did. There's no proof of any wrong doing on their part. But they did work for Blackwater.
At some point, someone needs to ask Nouri, "Is it just all 'b' words?" He lives in constant fear of the Ba'athists, he's targeting former employees of Blackwater . . . Is Xe out? No, of course not. This is a grandstanding measure that, again, only underscores how weak Little Nouri is. This move should have taken place in September of 2007. Jomana Karadsheh and Suzanne Simons (CNN) report that the contractors have been told they have seven days to leave (three of those seven have expired). Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) says the approximately 200 includes "current and former employees" and she reports, "US embassy spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment on how the move would affect its operations here. US officials had previously said that movements of diplomats, already severely restricted due to security fears, would be even more curtailed if former Blackwater guards were removed from duty." Is any thing really accomplished? It seems unlikely since Little Nouri's grandstanded before (yes, the Interior Ministry is speaking to the press but you're clue as to who's behind it is the fact that Nouri's spokesperson pops up in most articles as well and, no, he's not the Ministry of the Interior's spokesperson) and Xe's remained. Equally true, it can be hard to root out Xe. As Matthew Cole (ABC News) reported at the first of the month, "After Blackwater contractors were accused of shooting 17 civilians in Iraq, the State Department announced it would stop doing business with the company, but ABC News has found that several other agencies, including the CIA and the Pentagon, continue to employ the controversial company, under a myriad of names, often via secret, classified contracts. "
Returning to Liz Sly on KRCW's To The Point, "Well certainly speaking to the removal of the candidates who had supporters, as you say, I think that's going to have a very serious effect on the turnout amongst Sunnis and amongst your very middle of the road secular Iraqis who kind of feel that this process isn't for them, that people who they would have voted for have been excluded but it wasn't done in a fair way. That this was vengenace or vengefulness, if you like, on the part of this quite narrowly based commission that ordered these bannings. I think they're going to feel that this means that this isn't an inclusive Iraq It's not an Iraq that wants to include everybody in the political process. And that the system is weighed against them, it's not fair, it's not transparent they might fixed the vote, they banned these candidates we don't really know on what basis, we don't really know who they are so if they can do that why should it be a fair election I think it will supress turnout amongst those people."
Anyone remember when sectarian tensions were last sewn in a similar manner? The last national elections. And remember what happened afterwards? How likely is it that Nouri's actions will result in Sunni on Shia and Shia on Sunni violence as it did before? A climate's being created in a country that's already on the edge.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters reports a Baghdad car bombing which left five wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 2 police officers (four more wounded), a Mosul grenade attack on a security checkpoint which injured one police officer and four bystanders, a Mosul sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1Iraqi soldier, a Mosul roadside bombing which left three people injured and, dropping back to yesterday, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left six other people injured.
In other news out of Iraq, Ibrahim Jassam Mohammed is a Reuters journalist that the US military since September 1, 2008. He has finally been released. Reuters notes that, even now, the US military will not say why they held him and Ibrahim is quoted stating, "How can I describe my feelings? This is like being born again." While the US military held a journalist all this time, it should be noted they were ordered to release the ringleader of the group which claimed credit for the assault on a US base in Iraq which resulted in the deaths of 5 American service members. A journalist they hold, an apparent multiple felon they're ordered to release. But Little Nouri isn't friends with journalists and he is tight with the League of Righteous. While he's on his tear against alleged Ba'athists, it should not be forgotten that he's met with the League of Righteous and dispatched his spokesperson to meet with them, insisting that this organization responsible for the deaths of 5 Americans and for the deaths of 3 British citizens (possibly 4, one's status remains unknown) as well as the kidnapping of British citizen Peter Moore. These people must be brought in, Nouri insists.

December 1, 2008, he should have been free. There was no excuse to hold him because the Central Criminal Court of Iraq had found no evidence against him and had ruled that he be released. The US military ignored the ruling. No, Little Nouri didn't grandstand and scream. He didn't decry US interference. But Little Nouri's no friend of journalists, he's just a friend to criminals. Chris Tryhorn (Guardian) notes, "A month before his arrest, US forces detained Reuters cameraman Ali Mashhadani for the third time, holding him for three weeks without charge." David Walker (Photo District News) adds, "Over the course of the Iraq War, the military has detained a number of photojournalists as "security threats." Most, if not all, were eventually released without charges. They included AP photographer Bilal Hussein, who was released in April 2008 after more than two years of detention." The Committee to Protect Journalists has defended Ibrahim and other journalists imprisoned (around the world, not just in Iraq). Today they issued a statement which includes the following:
The Committee to Protect Journalists is relieved that the U.S military has released Iraqi photographer and cameraman Ibrahim Jassam today after holding him without charge for 17 months in Iraq , but calls on the U.S. government to ensure that this release marks the end of its policy of open-ended detentions of journalists.

Jassam, left, a freelancer who worked for Reuters, was arrested on September 2, 2008, by U.S and Iraqi forces during a raid on his home in Mahmoodiya, south of Baghdad . Jassam was never charged with a crime, and no evidence against him was ever disclosed; U.S. forces made only vague assertions that he was a "threat."

"We welcome the release of Ibrahim Jassam but we remain deeply concerned by the lack of due process exercised in this and similar, previous cases," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem , CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "The U.S. military must commit to making this the last time they hold a journalist without charge in an open-ended detention."

Reporters Without Borders also has spoken out in defense of Ibrahim and other journalists imprisoned. Today they released a statement which includes:

Reporters Without Borders welcomed the release today of Iraqi photographer, Ibrahim Jassam, of Reuters, who had been held by the US military since his arrest on 1st September 2008.

"This release is excellent news", the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "However it comes after long months in custody during which the US army never deigned to give any reason for the photographer's arrest and this despite the fact that an Iraqi court had ordered his release".

"I am happy to be reunited with all my family and to finally be free", an emotional Ibrahim Jassam told Reporters Without Borders.

"We welcome the decision to release Jassam," said IPI Director David Dadge. "However, we remain concerned by the fact that the US military felt it acceptable to hold him for 17 months in the absence of any charges against him. Furthermore, this case reveals the disturbing vacuum that exists between US military law and sovereign Iraqi law and it makes a mockery of the principle of habeas corpus."

The Iraqi photojournalist, who worked for Reuters and other news agencies as a freelancer, was seized from his home in Mahmudiya in September 2008.

In November 2008, the Iraqi Central Criminal Court ruled that there was no case against Jassam, but the US military continued to hold him, asserting that he was a "security threat" because of his alleged "activities with insurgents."

Jassam is one of a number of Iraqi journalists detained without charge, for varying lengths of time, by U.S. forces since the start of the Iraq war in 2003. On the anniversary of Jassam's arrest last year, IPI noted that the military's treatment of journalists was "a slap in the face to the US government's stated belief in press freedom, as well as its long-cherished belief in due process."

The freeing of Jassam comes a day before IPI releases its World Press Freedom Review 2009 -- Focus on the Middle East. The report welcomes the fact that fewer journalists were killed in Iraq in 2009 than in previous years, but expressed concern at continuing threats to media freedom.
Bonnie Bricker and Adil E. Shamoo (Foreign Policy in Focus) examine the current status of the war and offer conclusions including:
As our policies towards governance in Iraq evolve, American policymakers must continue to heed the current status of post-war Iraq. The numbers tell a devastating story. Several hundred thousand Iraqis died as a result of the war; an estimated one half-million were wounded. Tens of thousands of Iraqis are disabled, physically or mentally. There are over two million refugees outside Iraq and more displaced refugees inside Iraq. Twelve thousand physicians and thousands of intellectuals and engineers -- a large percentage of the professionals in Iraq -- left the country, and many will never return. Fifty percent of Iraqis are unemployed.
In order to break with the failed Iraq policy of the past, Washington must acknowledge the misery the invasion of Iraq inflicted on the Iraqi people. While welcoming any progress Iraqis have made post-invasion, we must not conflate the rebuilding of Iraq as a success of the neoconservatives. Rebuilding Iraq has occurred in spite of the neoconservatives' policies, not because of them. The neoconservatives' enthusiasm for Obama's policies in Iraq and Afghanistan provide fair warning that without a clear break from the past, Iraq's future is in doubt.
The current administration continues to support a sectarian constitution, as well as sectarian military and police forces. These imposed sectarian divisions further divide Iraqis instead of uniting them. The Lebanese example demonstrates that an Arab government based on sectarian divisions instead of non-sectarianism has little chance of success. Further, corporate U.S. interests are evident everywhere, especially in Iraq's oil fields. Hundreds of laws written by the United States and imposed on Iraq during the initial invasion remain in effect.
Iraq related. The Hurt Locker is Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq film and she and others nominated for Best Director (feature film) by the Academy Awards -- James Cameron, Jason Reitman, Lee Daniels and Quentin Tarantino -- speak with John Horn (Los Angeles Times) about their films. And Kathryn and Quentin note the Iraq War in their remarks. (Disclosure, I know Kathryn and am championing her with other Academy Award voters. She directed an amazing film. She's only the fourth women nominated for Best Director of a feature film and no woman has won thus far. Hopefully, she will make history in a few weeks.)
At the Washington Post, Dana Priest broke the story about the US government 'deciding' it can kill American citizens they suspect -- SUSPECT -- just because they want to. Usually, to sentence someone to an execution, you have to hold a trial. Francis A. Boyle is an international law expert and a noted professor. He weighs in at Information Clearing House:

This extrajudicial execution of human beings constitutes a grave
violation of international human rights law and, under certain
circumstances, can also constitute a war crime under the Four Geneva
Conventions of 1949. In addition, the extrajudicial execution of U.S.
citizens by the United States government also violates the Fifth
Amendment to the United States Constitution mandating that no person "be
deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."
The U.S. Government has now established a "death list" for U.S. citizens
abroad akin to those established by Latin American dictatorships
during their so-called "dirty wars." The Bush Administration reduced the
United States of America to a Banana Republic waging a "dirty war"
around the world in gross violation of international law, human rights
law, and the laws of war. It is only a matter of time before the United
States government will establish a similar "death list" targeting U.S.
citizens living here at home. As someone who used to teach
Constitutional Law, President Obama knows better.
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
Even with the recent outpouring of support for earthquake victims in
Haiti, Americans' attention span for global crises is usually very
short. But is there a way to keep American audiences from tuning out
important global issues of violence, poverty, and catastrophe far beyond
their backyards? On Friday, February 12 at 8:30 pm (check local
listings), NOW talks with filmmaker Eric Metzgar about "Reporter," his
documentary about the international reporting trips of New York Times
columnist Nicholas Kristof. In the film, Metzgar provides fascinating
insight into how Kristof breaks through and gets us to think deeply
about people and issues half a world away.