america the beautiful and perfect

everything's beautiful
every day's a holiday, the day you live without it
-- 'it's over,' written by aimee mann, from her album @#%&*! smilers

america the beautiful is now america the perfect.

did you miss the memo?

check out a week's worth of democracy now, for example.

nothing happened in america.

every segment was amy goodman yammering away about egypt.

good thing the united states is perfect and doesn't need attention - especially from american citizens.

the orgy over egypt has been so telling. 1st off it indicates just how unintelligent so many are. they foolishly believe they can become experts on egypt by blogging about daily events for a week.

never having given a moment's thought to the country prior, now it's all the blogger brigade can offer.

last time i checked, egypt didn't provide americans with jobs. last time i checked, egypt didn't decide whether the u.s. continues wars. last time i checked, egypt had nothing to do with congress' move to again extend the patriot act.

but the egypt orgy papers over all of that and so much more.

how very wonderful for our elected politicians in america. they're spared an informed public and provided the cover to do whatever they want.

thank you to Wally for twice this week blogging here to cover the u.s. senate's efforts to continue the iraq war. i'm glad to have wally fill in at any time but especially thrilled in a week when the u.s. media and the bloggers ignored important developments in this country to jerk off over egypt.

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

Friday, February 4, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the US State Dept puts more financial burdens on state and local communities, troops continue to deploy to the (ongoing) Iraq War, despite being fired upon yesterday the protesters in Diwaniya continue to take to the streets, the US Congress allows the administration to intimidate them, and more.
Cache Valley Daily reports 33 members of Utah's National Guard are deploying to the ongoing war in Iraq while Ray Arzate (CBS Atlanta) reports on a send-off ceremony for 60 members of Georgia's National Guard yesterday as they prepare to deploy to Iraq. Iraq Veterans Against the War's Geoff Millard is going back to Iraq and hopefully he'll be invited to discuss that on a radio program we can link to. He discusses the demilitarized IVAW Super Bowl with Dave Zirin on Zirin's Edge of Sports radio program (last weekly broadcast for January). I don't care for Zirin but I can link to his show without any self-hatred. The same is not true for a program that IVAW friends asked me to link to. A) I know Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan and I'm offended with any show that attempts to use Michael or his illness to press their own political agenda. I find that grossly offensive. If you have a guess as to how someone catches Parkinson, find a way to discuss it without insulting someone suffering from the disease. 2) I do not call for an end to sexist skin mags. I believe in free speech which does include the right to publish many things offensive. However, I also believe that the left needs to have some standards. If you would not publish in a racist magazine (and no one on the left should), you should not publish in a sexist magazine. (To be clear, we're not referring to Playboy or Penthouse but to the gutter trash that demonizes women's bodies and encourages mutiliation of women's bodies -- and I'm not referring to mutilation via implants.) I'm not in the mood to link to interviews with 'authors' who publish in those magazines or hear their 'jokes' about how, sadly, their articles in those sexist and dehumanizing magazines do not also feature the pictures found in the rest of the magazine. (Yes, I suffered through some of that damn program.) I'm not interested in hearing how a piece of trash is wonderful because he supports the First Amendment. Bob Barr made the last ten years about supporting the First Amenmdent (I'm not calling Barr a piece of trash) and I've yet to hear these same lefty sources take to praising Barr. The host of that program is a frightmare and that's why he's no longer on radio. For those and so many more reasons, and my inability to join in the trashing and dehumanizing of my own gender, I cannot and will not link to or transcribe that interview. (I also didn't hear Geoff's remarks or any of his segment, I gave the broadcast to the count of three -- the host and the first guest -- and then said, "No way.") Geoff's returning to Iraq and that's an important story but I would not link to praise or excuses for racism or praise or excuses for homophobia and I will not link to praise or excuses for sexism. Again, I don't care for Dave Zirin -- to put it mildly -- but can link to his program (Edge of Sports) with no self loathing. I cannot do the same with regards to the other audio program.
I have promised to promote this upcoming Iraq Veterans Against the War event:

February 25, 2011 9:30 - 10:30 am
Busboys & Poets, Langston room
14th & V st NW Washington DC
This report back will be to answer questions from media and the peace movement about the recent trip back to Iraq by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The war is not over but it is not the same as it was in years past. What is the humanitarian situation in Iraq?
How can we do reparations and reconciliation work?
Speakers are all returning from this delegation and include:
Geoff Millard (IVAW) Hart Viges (IVAW) Haider Al-Saedy (Iraqi Health Now)
Richard Rowely (
Big Noise Films)
And I would argue the commentary above does more to do that than would a transcript from the audio program in question. Hart Viges shares his thoughts on the upcoming visit here (it's two paragraphs or we'd excerpt from it). Let's stay on the topic of veterans, Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reports that many veterans who mistakenly put their trust in "special government-backed mortgages," such as DoD's Homeowner's Assistance Program, have seen their homes taken away from them in foreclosures. In related news, Rick Maze (Army Times) reports that the US Labor Department released unemployment figures today and the unemployment "rate for veterans climbed to 9.9 percent, up from 8.3 percent the previous month. For Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans, the unemployment rate for January was 15.2 percent. This is a sharp increase from 9.4 percent in November and 11.7 percent in December, a clear trend of worsening job market for younger veterans, many of them combat veterans."
And there are more veterans from the wars each day because they are ongoing wars as noted in yesterday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. The hearing was covered in yesterday's snapshot, Kat covered it in "John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Jim Webb," Wally covered it at Rebecca's site with "It's a bi-partisan hole (Wally)" and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "In appreciation of Lindsey Graham (Ava)." John T. Bennett (The Hill) reports on the hearing and the rush by so many to continue the US 'mission.' Let's get honest about what took place yesterday, a lot of people not wanting to be responsible if the civilian mishaps that might take place. Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor) adds, "At the same time, in the face of ongoing instability on the ground, officials offered one of the first hints that the American military could stay in Iraq beyond this year. US troops must pull out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011 under the current security agreement." Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) points out, "Which goes against the official position of the administration, that every last soldier will be out of Iraq by the end of December as per the Status of Forces Agreement. Given the Obama Administration's penchant for false promises and abortive "ends" to the Iraq War, it's perhaps no surprise that even the SOFA deadline is at risk."

Don't want the mishaps (read "deaths" and "injuries")? Get the US out of Iraq. It's not that damn difficult. But, as Wally noted, the Iraq War is a bi-partisan hole that both are eager to dig. Bennett tells you that John Kerry (never trust a man who choses his career over a sick wife -- as we should have all learned from the John and Elizabeth Edwards saga) wants to start "a stand-alone funding bill to pay for civilian-led Iraq functions." Really? So off the books again, supplementals. Exactly what John Kerry and others condemned Bush for.

Apparently, for Democrats in Congress, the real problem from 2001 through 2008 with the wars wasn't the wars but that their fellow wasn't the one making the calls. Today they rush to continue the wars -- overtly (hopes of an extension of the SOFA or a new treaty that will allow US forces, under the Defense Dept, to remain on Iraqi soil) or covertly (transferring the forces over to the State Dept -- a word trickery allowed in the agreements). The Iraq War never should have started but Bush knew the minor objection from Democrats in Congress would vanish the minute troops were on the ground and that the bulk of them would refuse to oppose funding his illegal war out of fear that they would be demonized if something went wrong. It's Barack's war now and he too knows the score. He insists US forces are staying, one way or the other, and despite the Great Recession the US is still experiencing, he's confident that Congress will waste billions on continuing the war out of fear that, if they don't, they will be blamed for any attacks. "THE US EMBASSY IN BAGHDAD WAS INVADED TODAY AND UNKNOWN ASSAILANTS -- THOUGHT TO BE LINKED TO AL QAEDA IN MESOPOTAMIA -- QUICKLY SHOT AND BEHEADED EMBASSY STAFF!" The Congress fears that such an attack -- or one on any scale -- would lead to them being blamed because they didn't provide enough tax payer money to the continued war.
The way to avoid such an attack, or any at all, is to demand that the US leaves Iraq. But that requires bravery and you don't find a great deal of that from career politicians. So the State Dept will most likely get every cent that Barack wants it to have barring riots in US streets.
We're spending $2 billion a year now on State Department operations in Iraq alone, and we intend to spend $1 billion a year on construction for some years to come. That's some withdrawal! I know that when Sen. Barack Obama asked to be entrusted with the presidency by repeatedly saying, "I will bring this war to an end in 2009. It is time to bring our troops home," he only said "troops." But I can't believe that the voters who heard him anticipated leaving thousands of Americans and spending billions of dollars in Iraq for many years.
If members of Congress are looking for ways to cut a trillion-dollar deficit, they might look at our construction and employment and nation-building plans in Iraq.
And instead of aiding state and local communities, to continue the Iraq War, the State Dept is looking to rob state and local communities. Because the US tax payer hasn't given enough to the illegal war, the US State Dept now wants to raid local and state police forces. Yesterday, they posted the following:

The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs met last week with local and state law enforcement offices, as well as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, to discuss opportunities available within the Iraq Police Development Program beginning this fall. The bureau is seeking to recruit both active and retired U.S. law enforcement officers as the U.S. Department of State builds a team of senior level and expert advisors to serve one-year missions in Iraq.

Beginning October 1, 2011, U.S. Department of State, through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, will assume full responsibility for the development of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior's police and border forces while continuing strong support of professional development in the corrections and justice sectors. Under Department of State leadership, the Police Development Program will partner with the Government of Iraq in developing management, leadership and technical skills to support the rule of law and maintain Iraq's internal security.

Experienced U.S. police officers have the opportunity to contribute to this large, post-conflict police development mission, partnering with Iraqi ministers, commanders, and police chiefs who will have impact on the future of the Iraqi police service. Through the Police Development Program, the Department of State is contributing to the broader goal of promoting security, stability, and respect for the rule of law in Iraq.

While appearing before Congress currently (via Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey) to ask for the biggest budget in State Dept history, they now also want to poach trained police officers which will add to the costs for states and municipalities who will have to hire and train new officers instead of retaining current ones.
Today in Iraq, a plane went down. Al Rafidayn reports the crash claimed the lives of 7 people and is being blamed by some on "bad weather conditions" -- but they also note that the plan "burst into flames" while still in the air -- according to an unnamed airline source and following its takeoff from Sulaimaniya airport which has led the airport director, Taher Abdullah, to blame the crash on "an outbreak of fire" on the plane. CNN adds that it was a private airplane and Sulaimaniya "is the second largest city in Iraq's Kurdish region." Technical issues and/or including a fire would explain why airport official Hadi Amer tells AFP that the plane "turned back to try to return to the airport" prior to its crash.
Iraq is slammed with bombings again. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes a Ramadi suicide bombing last night in which the death toll has risen to 5 police officers. Tawfeeq has already updated that to note 9 now dead and twenty-three injured. Alsumaria TV counts 3 Ramadi bombings. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) observes of Ramadi's Anbar Province, "The vast desert area has been relatively calm for more than three years after Sunni tribes and anti-U.S. insurgent groups turned to cooperate with the U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces against al-Qaida network in Iraq."

In addition, Reuters notes "an Anbar University professor and cleric who criticised al Qaeda during prayers last week" saw his Falluja home blown up today and two of his children left injured, a Trikirt bombing of a police officer's home injured him and his teenage son and 1 police officer was shot dead in Falluja. In equally disturbing news, Basra has the polio virus. Al Mada reports that two children have polio, confirmed by the Ministry of Health. No word on whether immunizations are being planned or what efforts will be taken to contain the outbreak. There are entire generations that may not get how serious that is. Others will note the migration in and out of Iraq (not just Iraqis and that includes US citizens) and will remember that the polio vaccine stopped being dispensed in many countries when it was assumed the world had conquered it. Any who remember or studied the previous polio outbreak, however, will find the news very disturbing.

Alsumaria TV reports two developments, Nouri al-Maliki has reportedly given Parliament the names to fill three vacant posts in Cabinet (which would leave 7 still needing to be filled for those keeping track). Which three? Minister of Electricity, Trade and the State Ministry for Women Affairs. In addition, Nouri appears to have been check-mated/bluffed by Parliament: "Al Maliki and Parliament Speaker Ousama Al Nujaifi agreed in their meeting on Thursday to have the Supreme Court clarify its ruling to place independent bodies under ministerial and not parliamentary control, the source told Alsumaria News. The clarification should be made through an announcement that confirms the independence of these bodies, the source noted according to Al Maliki and Al Nujaifi." Al Rafidayn reports that clerics used morning prayers today to warn against the instability in Iraq. Iman Soran ABdullah Abdul Rhaman warned that the government must "speed up to serve the people, otherwise the change is coming, revolution." Iman Abdul Sattar al-Janabi warned against "the injustice of the rulers to their poeple". Iman Mohammed al-Juburi delcared that Iraq could see the "spark sweeping other Arab countries as a result of the corrutpion and the political conflict." Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot to note:
In Iraq, Ali Abdel Gentlemen (Al Mada) reports, many Iraqis see not the progress Jeffreys spoke of but "a paralysis of government" and more and more and more are taking to the streets to protest "the deterioration of living conditions" which is why leather and textile workers protested in Baghad and Hilla this week and activist Mohammed Salami is quoted stating, "There is daily frustration over the fact that successive political changes have not brought a new [better] level of service." That was earlier this week. Today things were not so peaceful. Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports that the police began shooting at protesters in Diwaniya today (at least three were injured). Approximatley one thousand were out in the streets calling attention to the "shortages of power, water and other services" and they "set tires ablaze, hurled stones and tried to storm the local police station, witnesses said." But Jeffrey wanted to ride yet another wave of Operation Happy Talk while appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Al Arabiya Net reports that protests continued today in Diwaniya and that the security forces "shot randomly at hundreds of protesters" (at least 1 was killed and four were left wounded). The protesters are calling for "the removal of al-Hamza head official and for the Iraqi government to provide basic services. In addition to demanding employment, the protesters carried lamps and small sacks of sugar to symbolize their demands for food and electricity. The ration card system includes only ncessary items such as wheat, rice, flour, and the government is mulling to cut the ration food supplies into four items only." Mandy Samira (Iraqhurr.org) reports that yesterday Diwaniya's local government was announcing it had things under control and the protests were over. Obviously, the local government was wrong. As for the violence targting the demonstrations, Samira quotes political analyst Hassan Hashem declaring 80% of the police officer are illiterate and have no concept of basic human rights which makes them willing to shoot at those protesting. Lara Jakes (AP) reports "a stunning statement for Nouri al-Maliki" -- that he is declaring he'll give back half his yearly salary. That's nonsense. Jakes notes it follows the clerics speeches this morning. But even more importantly, Nouri doesn't reveal how much he makes. How is anyone going to check that he's returned a dime let alone half of his salary? The records on his pay aren't open to the public. It was more spin from Nouri. Poverty is nothing new in post-invasion, oil-rich Iraq; however, the numbers of Iraqis living in poverty continues to increase. Ahmed al-Zubaidi (Iraqhurr.org) reports that there are estimated to be 100,000 Iraqis in Baghdad -- just in Baghdad -- who depend upon begging to survive with 95% of those being children.
In other news, October 31s, Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was attacked (approximately 60 people were killed, approximately 60 were injured) touching off the latest wave in the Iraq War of targeting Iraqi Christians. As the wave of violence has continued in Baghdad and Mosul, many Christians in those areas have left their homes for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq or to go to other countries. UPI notes that Abdullah al-Nawfa has told the press "that the rate of Iraq Christians fleeing the country doubled in November and increased again in December after the attacks." In his opening statements at yesterday US Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Chair Carl Levin declared, "Finally, an important issue for the government of Iraq remains the security of Christian and other religious minorities. During our visit we met with leaders of Christian communities, which have suffered from suicide attacks, targeted killings, kidnappings and other intimidation by violent extremist forces. These communities live in fear and large numbers of Christians have either fled the country or uprooted to safer regions in northern Iraq. The leaders we met [on his recent trip to Iraq] explained with pride how Iraq has been home to some of the earliest Christian communities and Iraqi Christians do not want to have to leave their country to feel safe. Iraq has a long tradition of religious tolerance. On our visit we urged the government of Iraq to act with urgency to provide the security necessary to preserve these ancient Christian and other religious minority communities and to protect its religious minorities." There is news of some movement on the issue, Catholic Culture reports that Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil "has announced that the regional government has approved his plans to construct a Catholic university and a 100-bed Catholic hospital." He is quoted stating, "The plans we have been developing over the past few months are symbols of hope for the Christian presence in our country. The people arriving here [northern Iraq] from places of violence are receiving the gifts of relative security. They themselves are willing to offer the gift of their services in a region which cannot cope with the demands of an increasing population." Catholic News Agency adds, "Archbishop Warda said in a Feb. 1 interview that a fundraising campaign was necessary before the building work could begin. He expressed hope that the two institutions would open within the next couple years."
Though the Diane Rehm Show (NPR) yet again turned their so-called international news hour over to Egypt! Egypt! Egypt!, it was a busy week for news about and out of Iraq. One of this week's stories that Diane and so many others avoided was the release of the Human Rights Watch report on Baghdad's secret prisons. Tuesday, Kelly McEvers (NPR's All Things Considered -- link has text and audio) reported on it:
KELLY McEVERS: The latest report by New York-based Human Rights Watch says that a special unit of about 3,000 Iraqi soldiers, known as Brigade 56, or the Baghdad Brigade, is in charge of the secret facility. Human Rights Watch researcher Samer Muscati says this brigade works in partnership with two other brigades. One of which was trained by U.S. Special Forces, and all of which report directly to the prime minister. Muscati says that means they aren't accountable to anyone else.
Mr. SAMER MUSCATI (Researcher, Human Rights Watch): When you have these institutions that are operating outside the rule of law, it creates a situation where there's no transparency, where forces are likely to engage in activity that is reprehensible, and there's no way to rein them in.
McEVERS: After reviewing government documents and conducting interviews with Iraqi officials, Human Rights Watch found that the Baghdad Brigade transferred these detainees to the newest secret facility in November, just as human rights inspectors were planning a visit. Detainees at the original facility told the L.A. Times that conditions were appalling, that detainees were hung upside down, beaten and given electric shocks to their genitals. Officials say these men are hardcore terrorism suspects. But Muscati says that shouldn't deprive them of all their rights.
Mr. MUSCATI: These are fathers, these are sons. These are people who are supposed to be innocent before a court of law.
McEVERS: In previous statements, Maliki's office has denied Human Rights Watch's findings, claiming their reports are the work of his political enemies
The UK publiciation The Week covers the secret prisons today with a rundown of the basics including:
Is there evidence of secret jails in Iraq?
Yes, in fact one was disclosed last year, and Maliki promised that the detainees there would be transferred to the Ministry of Justice. Detainees at the original facility -- Camp Honor, in the Green Zone -- told the Los Angeles Times that prisoners there were hung upside down and given electric shocks to their genitals. "The interrogators beat me repeatedly," one former Camp Honor detainee told an investigator, "and told me that they would go to my house and rape my sister if I did not sign a confession, so I did. I did not even know what I was confessing."

Is there hope of progress?
The reports of abuse suggest that some Iraqi authorities are "behaving in much the same way" as the disgraced government they replaced,
says Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director of Human Rights Watch. "The difference now is there are political forces in Iraq that are not at all happy with this kind of thing," he said. "This has sparked outrage, as it should."
Staying on the topic of imprisonment but moving to the US, picked Steve Kroft to go after and the real question there is why he's yet to defend Bradley Manning from the hatchet job Nancy A. Youssef did on him -- excuse me, the most recent hatchet job she's done on him. Who is Bradley Manning? Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. Paul Courson (CNN) notes Bradley is a suspect and, "He has not admitted guilt in either incident, his supporters say." He remains imprisoned and the thought of a right to a speedy trial flies out the window. Watler Smolarek (Liberation: Newspaper of the Party of Socialism and Liberation) observes:
Bradley Manning, accused of leaking classified materials to Wikileaks, continues to suffer under deplorable conditions at the Quantico military base in Virginia, where he is imprisoned. Although he passed psychiatric evaluations, Manning was recently placed on suicide watch for two days, meaning that he was confined to his cell for 23 hours a day without receiving visitors.
Manning faces this new abuse in retaliation for the critical role he allegedly played in exposing some of the criminal actions of U.S. imperialism. He stands accused of leaking the famous "collateral murder" video of an aerial massacre of civilians and reporters by U.S. forces in Iraq as well as 250,000 state department communications.
Manning has not committed any crime. If he indeed shed light on the secrets of the U.S. government, he has made a major contribution to the struggle of oppressed people around the world and inside the United States. Progressives and revolutionaries should stand in solidarity with Bradley Manning and demand his immediate release.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich is requesting a visit with Bradley and has released a copy of his letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates requesting the visit:
Dear Secretary Gates:
I write to request that I be able to visit Private First Class Bradley Manning at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia.
As you know, I am concerned about reports of his treatment while in custody that describe alarming abuses of his constitutional rights and his physical health. A March 2009 article by surgeon Atul Gawande discusses the effects of solitary confinement on prison inmates and prisoners of war: "Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury." Studies highlighted that such prisoners, months after being released, revealed severe brain abnormalities mirroring those who had endured significant physical head trauma[1] .
Private Manning's guilt or innocence is a question for adjudication and his treatment at Quantico severely undermines the presumption of innocence as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and raises questions as to whether he is truly able to stand trial. His care while in the custody of the Department of Defense is the responsibility of the U.S. Government and as a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform it is my duty to conduct effective oversight.
Thank you for your attention to this request. I look forward to your prompt reply.

AFP reminds, "Amnesty International said late last month that the 23-year-old army private has been held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day in a sparsely furnished cell at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia since July. The group said last month it was worried that the conditions of his detention were "unnecessarily severe and amount to inhumane treatment."

Moving over to trial news, Amal Khalaf took the witness stand yesterday in Phoenix. Who? Dropping back to the November 3, 2009 snapshot:

In the US, Noor Faleh Almaleki has died. The 20-year-old Iraqi woman was intentionally run over October 20th (see the October 21st snapshot) while she and Amal Edan Khalaf were running errands (the latter is the mother of Noor's boyfriend and she was left injured in the assault). Police suspected Noor's father, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, of the assault and stated the probable motive was that he felt Noor had become "too westernized." As noted in the October 30th snapshot, Faleh Hassan Almaleki was finally arrested after going on the lamb -- first to Mexico, then flying to London where British authorities refused him entry and he was sent back to the US and arrested in Atlanta. Karan Olson and CNN note that the judge has set the man's bail at $5 million. Philippe Naughton (Times of London) adds, "Noor died yesterday, having failed to recover consciousness after the attack. The other woman, Amal Khalaf, was also seriously injured but is expected to survive. "

Edecio Martinez (CBS News) reports Wednesday the trial heard from police detective Christopher Boughey who stated that Faleh Almaleki deliberately ran over his daughter. Lisa Halverstadt (Arizona Republic) reports Amal Khalaf testified yesterday that she screamed and threw her hands up in the air pleading for Faleh Hassan al-Maleki to stop the car when he hit her with his car before turning it to run down his daughter. Paul Rubin (Phoenix New Times) reports:

She described how an irate Faleh Almaleki and his wife came by her home one night to try to convince Noor to return to the fold, with Mrs. Almaleki entering the residence through a window. The police were called, but no arrests followed.
A few months later, on the morning of October 20, 2009, Khalaf and Noor went to a state Department of Economic Security office. Faleh Almaleki unexpectedly showed up in the lobby, though neither woman said anything to him or vice-versa.
Khalaf said she later went outside, told Noor to wait by the front door, walked to her car and drove around the lot looking for Almaleki, whom had left some time earlier. She said she didn't see him, and parked back in the same spot.
She got out of the car and went to get Noor, but then realized that she nervously had locked her keys in the vehicle.
"[Noor] told me to calm down, 'He's not going to harm us,'" Khalaf testified.

"60 Minutes" Presents: Gotti
John Gotti, Jr. talks to Steve Kroft in his first extended TV interview about growing up with the infamous father whom he strove to please by living a life of crime but whom he eventually betrayed by leaving that life. | Watch Video

Sunday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.


It's a bi-partisan hole (Wally)

Wally here filling in for Rebecca tonight to cover this morning's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that we (Ava, C.I., Kat and I) attended.

The issue was Iraq and Senator Jack Reed seemed to see his role not in questioning but in being a life coach for James Jeffrey, US Ambassador to Iraq. And, specifically, saw his role as being a life coach for Jeffrey on how to ask for money and receive it from the Senate.

Reed is a Democrat and, as a general rule, I prefer my Democrats rush to help those in need of cash for public schools, job creation, unemployment benefits, CHIPS, Medicare, Medicaid and food assistance among other things.

When it comes to war?

I really don't enjoy hearing a Democrat coach people on how to get more money for war.

And that's especially true, Jack Reed, when you're basically assisting the witness -- as you yourself admitted -- in overcoming and, yes, ignoring the American people's wishes. You want to teach tricks, open a magic school.

Jack Reed gets on my last nerve. He's like the terrier of the War Hawk class.

After Reed, Lindsey Graham went and, among his remarks, said, "The nation needs to understand what's about to occur here. If you bring all the troops home -- we all would like that to happen as soon as possible -- you still have a country that is in a very early stage of development in terms of democracy. Would both of you agree with that? That Iraq is an infant democracy at best?"

So what we have here is a bi-partisan hole. They're digging a bi-partisan hole. When Bully Boy Bush was occupying the Oval Office, Graham was a War Hawk. He remains one today. But Reed? He was against it. He was talking common sense back then. Now Barack's in the White House and Graham, again, remains the same; however, Reed acts like an idiot.

In today's snapshot, C.I. goes over a Senate Foreign Affairs report and a friend called her this evening an hour or so after the snapshot went up. (C.I. had the friend on speaker phone.) The friend did a very successful fundraiser for Barbara Boxer last year. Barbara sits on that Committee, certainly she didn't go along with the report! C.I. responded, "Use the link to the PDF of the report. You'll see her name on it along with everyone else on that Committee."

But she was against the war, the friend exclaimed. C.I. replied, "That's when Bush was in the White House." And that's true and it's also true of Jack Reed.

Jack Reed used to be one of the smartest people on the Armed Services Committee. But then Barack got sworn in and suddenly he's Tina Yothers on Family Ties, reduced to saying, "Yeah!" to whatever Mallory or Alex say or do. Unable to think on his own. (There's a hilarious parody of Family Ties on the SNL episode that Justine Bateman hosted years ago -- you can stream it at Netflix -- and all the Tina Yothers character gets to do in the skit is say "Yeah!")

So 'change we can believe in' means that it's now a bi-partisan hole they dig and they'll continue throwing money and bodies at it and continue to lie to themselves that a turned corner is approaching. It's really sad and disgusting.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, February 3, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee doesn't appear to think US troops are leaving Iraq (nor do they appear to support the departure), one man steals nearly $250,000 of US tax payer monies while working for the State Dept in Baghdad, the US Ambassador to Iraq touts 'progress' and 'stability' in his testimony today as protesters riot in an Iraqi city over the lack of basic services, and more.
Starting in the US with President Barack Obama who declared, "It's time to stop spending billions of dollars a week trying to put Iraq back together and start spending the money putting America back together." Of course, he said that back in Feburary 2008 when he was campaigning for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and would tell any lie with a happy smile. But what did War Hawk Samantha Power tell the BBC in March 2008, "You can't make a commitment in whatever month we're in now, in Marach of 2008, about what circumstances are going to be like in January 2009. We can't even tell what Bush is up to in terms of troops pauses and so forth. He will of course not rely on some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a US Senator." So yet another lie from the man who's told so many.
When Pretty Speeches told his lie about it being time to "start spending the money putting America back together," the US wasn't aware they were about to enter the Great Recession (as Marcia pointed out last night). Tuesday the US Ambassador in Iraq James Jeffrey and the top US commander in Iraq Gen Lloyd Austin appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to beg for more money -- specifically three billion to three-and-a-half billion for this year alone. As Wally noted in his report on the hearing, "We have a record number of US citizens on food stamps, if the ambassador doesn't know, and we can't even seem to keep unemployment payments going without repeatedly voting for extensions in Congress, but James Jeffrey is comfortable spending your money and mine in Iraq." Tuesday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also released a 20 page report entitled [PDF format warning] "IRAQ: THE TRANSITION FROM A MILITARY MISSION TO A CIVILIAN-LED EFFORT." From the report:
The State Department is scheduled to assume full security responsibilities in a still dangerous and unpredictable environment and must strike a difficult balance between maintaining a robust presence and providing sufficient level of security. In almost any scenario, the United States will continue to have military personnel stationed at the American embassy in a non-combat role under the Office of Security Cooperation. As in many countries around the world, these troops will be responsible for enhancing the bilateral defense relationship by facilitating security assistance. But the size, scope, and structure of this presence remain undetermined, even at this late date. Perhaps most significantly, it is unclear what kind of security relationship the incoming Iraqi Government would like with the United States.
In the wake of such uncertainities, a complicated diplomatic plan has emerged that highlights a dilemma that will likely confront the nation for as long as counterinsurgency warfare and state-building are central components of American foreign policy: How can the State Department effectively operate in difficult security environments without the support of the American military?
The U.S. Government should ensure that the scope of the mission in Iraq is compatible with the resources available, including State Department capacity, the financial commitment from Congress, a degree of U.S. military support and the backing of the Iraqi Government.
The report highlights key issues and we'll emphasize the first two:
* First, it is unclear whether the State Department has the capacity to maintain and protect the currently planned diplomatic presence without U.S. military support.
* Second, uncertainty about the nature of the U.S. military presence in Iraq after 2012 is complicating all other aspects of transition planning.
Golly, gee, and here we thought the US military presence in Iraq had already been addressed. Or that's what we've been repeatedly told (lied to). The Senate Foreign Relations Committee runs through four options in their report. 1) All US troops leave at the end of 2011 ("except for a limited Office of Secuirty Cooperation housed within the embassy") which would require the State Dept scale back their current plans. 2) Many US troops leave at the end of 2011 but the Office of Security Cooperation is expanded with "military forces" who will "provide logistical support for the Iraqi army, shore up administrative gaps within the Ministry of Defense, and prove 'behind the wire' capabilities". 3) A new security agreement is negotiated to allow the US military to continue in Iraq. ("This approach should only be considered if it comes at Iraq's request".)
Imagine if, instead of lying and providing cover for Barack, Tom Hayden and so many others had stayed focused on the Iraq War and pressed for an end to it? Back to the report:
But regardless of whether the U.S. military withdraws as scheduled or a small successor force is agreed upon, the State Department will take on the bulk of responsibility for their own security. Therefore, Congress must provide the financial resources necessary to complete the diplomatic mission. Consideration should be given to a multiple-year funding authorization for Iraq programs, including operational costs (differentiated from the State Department's broader operational budget), security assistance, and economic assistance programs. The price tag will not be cheap -- perhaps $25 - 30 billion over 5 years -- but would constitute a small fraction of the $750 billion the war has cost to this point.
$25 to 30 billion is what the Senate Foreign Relations is prepping to spend over the next five year on the Iraq War. Yet two years ago this month, campaigning for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, Barack insisted, "It's time to stop spending billions of dollars a week trying to put Iraq back together and start spending the money putting America back together."
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies pretty lies
When you gonna realize they're only pretty lies
Only pretty lies just pretty lies
-- "The Last Time I Saw Richard," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album Blue
Staying with the money issue, we'll again note this exchange from Tuesday's hearing:
Senator Ben Cardin: On that same side, the chairman's talked about a long term committment to Iraq, I think we all understand we're going to be there from the point of view of helping to rebuild the country. What can you tell us is being put in place to make sure that the US funds are being used in the most cost-effective way, that we have protections against US funds being used to help finance corruption -- local corruption -- in the country, how do we avoid that and what are we doing for promoting US values including gender equity issues, making sure that we continue to make progress? Do we have -- Do you have an accountability system in place that gives confidence that we should be considering a more permanent, longterm, committment to Iraq?
US Ambassador James Jeffrey: Yes, sir, on all of those accounts,Senator. First of all, this is an important priority for us and it's an important priority for this administration and the last administration. In fact, a unique institution, uh, the Special uh Inspector General for Iraq, SIGIR, has been set up and they have a very active uh program, they have dozens of uh people stationed or with us TDI either out in the field in Iraq. We also have the State Dept and other IGs but SIGR in particular has been very active in looking into assistance programs and how effective and how efficient they are and, uh, to what extent there is corruption. Uh, I, uh, meet with the head of it, with [Stuart] Bowen, with his deputy and with other members frequently. In addtition, uh, uh, since the time of [former US Ambassador to Iraq] Ryan Crocker, we've organized the embassy in a unique way: where normally we have the ambassador and then a deputy chief of mission But for the economic and assistance elements of it -- we've created essentially a second, uh, deputy chief of mission -- the assistant chief of mission, currently Ambassador Peter Bodde who looks into that and focuses directly on the issues of "Are we getting our bang for the buck?," uh, "Are we looking into corruption?," uh, and these kind of issues. Uh, a good deal of our assistance goes -- and a good deal of our political relationships with Iraqis and our engagement with them goes to issues such as gender equality, minorities, the refugee issue. We have a very, very broad dialogue with them. We played a role behind the scenes on some of the decisions taken in the Iraqi Constitution on -- under equality -- for example, 25% of the Parliament has to be uh, uh female. Uh, now there are problems with this at times. For example, uh Iraqis -- both men and women -- were unhappy with the makeup of the Cabinet. Uh, the prime minister then decided that he would have to hold off on completion of the Cabinet until he could find more female candidates and that process is ongoing.
And as we pointed out Tuesday: "In terms of SIGR, they do strong work. It's also after-the-fact work. Meaning, they are auditing programs that are often completed or the money is all spent. In other words, after the money (or the bulk of it) has been mispent. In addition, how dare an employee of the US State Dept claim responsibility for SIGIR which was created, in 2004, by an act of Congress. 'What are you doing' was the question Jeffrey was asked. The answer is: Not real damn much."
Today AFP reports a US jury found a Jordanian guilty of theft. The US Dept of Justice issued a press release yesterday explaining the man was 36-year-old Osama Esam Saleem Ayesh, "resident of Jordan hired by the Department of State as a shipping and customs supervisor at the embassy in Baghdad". Though DoJ is happy to note he was convicted of "two counts of theft of public money and one count of engaging in acts affecting a personal financial interest," that the first two convictions come with a maximum ten year sentence and the third with a maximum five year sentence and that he stole "nearly $250,000" of US tax payer money, they never note any of it being recovered. They're sketchy on other details as well. Such as when it took place. The Cypress Times reports he wired $243,416 from the US State Dept "to his wife's account in Jordan" and that he conducted his theft from November 2008 through June 2010. So he started stealing in November of 2008 and he wasn't indicted until (according to the DoJ press release) October 15, 2010? The criminal complaint was filed August 16, 2010. One person, two years of theft, of hundreds of thousands of dollars (which no one's rushing to insist were recovered) and we're supposed to believe James Jeffrey's lame remarks about checks to ensure the money is not wasted or misspent?
Switching over the US House of Representatives for a moment, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held their organizational meeting (their first meeting). I had noted earlier this month that they had no meetings scheduled and an e-mail to the public account reminds me that the now-Republican led Committee held a meeting January 26th. Of course, that's not the type of meeting I was referring to (and other House Committees this session held their organizational meetings earlier). I was noting that under Bob Filner's leadership, the House Veterans Affairs Committee and its Subcommittees held four hearings in the month of January -- not one of those was an organizational one. (You can refer to the January 11th snapshot.) They currently have two hearing scheduled for February and two for March (one in March is a joint-hearing with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee). Jeff Miller is the new Chair and, in fairness to him (and the Republicans), I will note what the e-mail didn't: the Democrats still haven't filled their seats on the Committee. That's nothing to do with Jeff Miller. The Democrats (minority party) have eleven slots on the Committee, four of which remain empty. Bob Filner is the Ranking Member. The Republicans have fifteen slots on the Committee, two remain absent. That does fall on Chair Jeff Miller. Of the four Subcommittees announced, the one we most often follow is the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs and the Chair of it will be Jon Runyan of New Jersey while Jerry McNerney of California will be the Ranking Member. In a press release which came with the e-mail, Chair Jeff Miller states, "I am honored to be chairing this Committee at such a critical time for our nation and its veterans. It will be the top priority of this Committee to ensure stringent oversight over veterans' programs. We must ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently to provide the best services and world class health care to nation's warriors and their families. I am also proud of the Committee's bipartisan oversight plan that lays out an aggressive agenda that includes 79 specific items. I consider this plan a basic blueprint for our oversight activities but, it is not exclusive and I expect to expand on it throughout the Congress."
Today the US Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Iraq and Jeffrey and Austin appeared before them to provide testimony. At the top of the meeting, Chair Carl Levin welcomed new Committee members Senators Jeanne Shaheen, Kirsten Gillibrand, Richard Blumenthal, Rob Portman and Kelly Ayotte. In addition, he welcomed back to the Committee Senator John Cornyn who "previously served on the Committee for six years until 2008." As is so often the case, Chair Levin didn't try to pretty it up in his opening statement, instead laying facts as they were.
Chair Carl Levin: Last December, after eight months of discussions, Iraq's political leaders agreed to form a national unity government. But the agreement was only partial. Iraq still awaits the nominations by Prime Minister al-Maliki to the key cabinet positions of Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior and Minister of National Security as well as the resolution of issues relating to the powers of the National Council on Higher Priorities, to be headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The pressure on the Iraqi government to fill in these large gaps must continue.
Yes, this was in stark contrast to the rosy "a government has been formed" we sat through on Tuesday. Levin noted the realities on violence, the realities on the security forces and offered a fact-based opening statement. Again, in stark contrast to Tuesday. Back to his opening statement (and we're jumping ahead, if there was room, we'd include the entire opening statement).
Chair Carl Levin: One major question is what security relationship the United States and Iraq will have once the 2008 Security Agreement expires in December. It is unclear whether the Maliki government will seek any type of continuing US military presence after December given the terms of the security agreement that all our troops be removed by this December. Iraq needs to engage with the United States sooner rather than later if such a request is going to be forthcoming. The government of Iraq should understand that the days of the American tax payer bearing the costs of developing Iraq's security forces are ending. Iraq has significant oil revenue which will continue to increase. According to the latest quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Iraq's efforts to attract foreign investment continue to 'bear fruit' and development of Iraq's oil fields is making 'better than expected progress.' We should work with the government of Iraq to make available the equipment and training it needs for its long-term security, but Iraq should not expect us to bear the costs of its security needs. Finally, an important issue for the government of Iraq remains the security of Christian and other religious minorities. During our visit we met with leaders of Christian communities, which have suffered from suicide attacks, targeted killings, kidnappings and other intimidation by violent extremist forces. These communities live in fear, and large numbers of Christians have either fled the country or uprooted to safer regions in northern Iraq. The leaders we met explained with pride how Iraq has been home to some of the earliest Christian communities and Iraqi Christians do not want to have to leave their country to feel safe. Iraq has a long tradition of religious tolerance. On our visit we urged the government of Iraq to act with urgency to provide the security necessary to preserve these ancient Christian and other religious minority communities and to protect its religious minorities. Ambassador Jeffrey and General Austin, we know from our conversations in Iraq and here that you will continue to keep the safety of the various religious minority communities in Iraq as one of your top priorities in your discussions with the government of Iraq.
After opening statements from Ranking Member John McCain, Austin and Jeffrey.
Chair Carl Levin: You talked about stability and security and self-reliance of an Iraqi state and an Iraqi government and that surely has been the goal. One of the threats to that success and that achievement of that goal and to the stability and security of Iraq is the failure of the political leaders of Iraq to reach conclusions on some critical issues. This has always been a problem, we've always expressed the importance of the political leaders coming together. Now some of the current political issues that are unresolved include the following: an agreement to create a National Council for Higher Policies with real executive power, headed by former Prime Minister Allawi. There's an agreement that the Council be created but there's no agreement on what their powers are. I think I mispoke. There's an agreement that such a Council be created, there's no agreement yet on what the powers of that Council will be. The positions of Minister of Defense, Interior and National Security are still unfilled. There is no agreement yet on oil policies, the division of oil revenues. These are huge issues that remain unresolved and I believe threaten the goals and objectives that we have and hopefully that the Iraqis have for themselves. Can you comment on this matter? Is it important that the leaders of Iraq get on with the decisions in those areas, Ambassador?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chair Carl Levin: And we're going to have a seven minute round, by the way. I usually announce how long the round of questions will be.
Ambassador James Jeffrey: It is vitally important that they finish the job of forming the government. Uh, they have taken most of the steps necessary but, uh, you have outlined several of the remaining issues that we've been pressing them on but more importantly they've been pressing themselves on. We have seen some progress in the last several weeks on the National Council and the two sides have basically agreed to everything but the modality of how to select Dr. Ayad Allawi. Everybody agrees that he should be selected. We think that this should be resolved in the next few days. I was in contact with President [Masoud] Barzani of the, uh, Kurdistan Regional Government, uh, this morning and the embassy with other people, uh, to take the temperature of where we are on these steps. There are also some names that are floating on compromise candidates for both of those ministries that you mentioned. And, again, we are encouraged by what we've heard over the past several days but the proof is in the pudding and we have to see uh, uh, if they will finish the job. It is very important that they finish the job and get on with the business of, uh, government. On the oil account -- two positive developments. Uh, as with everything else in Iraq, it moves forward in relatively small steps, Senator, but it does move forward. The, uh, Kurds and the other coalition parties agreed on a 19-point plan or on most of a 19-point plan that includes giving priority to a hydrocarbons law and a revenue sharing law. This vital. But meanwhile the central government, Prime Minister Maliki personally and the Kurdistan Regional Government have agreed on an interum step of allowing up to 150,000 barrels of oil in the Kurdistan Regional Government to flow out into the pipeline. This is a very significant development and it gives us hope that they will continue down this path, sir.
Chair Carl Levin: Thank you. General Austin, is the withdrawal of our forces by the end of this year as agreed to by President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki on track?
Gen Lloyd Austin: Thank you, Senator. It is indeed on track. Uh, we just recently completed our planning process that will, uh, will govern the rest of -- the remainder activities from now until the end of December. And we've issued Operations Order 1101 which again prescribes, uh, the major activities that we will be conducting focused on strengthening the Iraqi Security Forces, uh, reposturing our forces, uh, and also transitioning responsibilities, uh, to, uh, the Embassy, the government of Iraq and Central Command. We continue to synchronize that plan and we're also synchronizing the activities of the Embassy along with our activities as we -- as we go about executing the plan.
Chair Carl Levin: Thank you. Is there any indication -- and I'll ask this of both of you -- that Iraq is going to request that any elements of our military forces remain beyond December?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: We have received, uh, no such request, Senator. We are working with the Iraqis, as the general said, on the security elements of our post 2011 presence which will include a large OSCI element for our security cooperation and the police training which will be a major program both of these are under the framework of the Security -- uh, the Strategic Framework Agreement which was the second agreement signed in 2008. It does not have a deadline and calls for a broad cooperation across the spectrum of bilateral relations including specifically security. So we're working with the Iraqis now on just what exactly the components of that would be, sir.
Chair Carl Levin: Do you expect a request beyond that from the Iraqi government?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: We haven't yet, sir, and I-I can't say what they'll do in the future.
Chair Car Levin: We don't have any indication that such a request is going to be forthcoming? As of this time?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: As of this time there's no specific request on the table. They will want to see how we will meet their training and equipping needs uh with the program that we set up.
Gen Lloyd Austin: Senator, I echo the Ambassador's comments. We haven't had any requests. And, again, I think he covered the entire gamut there so I would not add anything to that.
On the National Council, Jeffrey was Happy Talking. Haider Roa (Iraqhurr.org) reported yesterday that Iraqiya is very bothered by the delay and quoted Iraqiya member Saleh al-Mutlaq (second only to Allawi in terms of power in the Iraqiya bloc) stating he would be stepping down if there is not movement on the National Council while others express their dismay and Andan al-Sarraj (State Of Law -- Nouri's slate) insists that implementing is taking place.
In his questions, Ranking Member John McCain noted one obvious problem with the claim that US forces leave at the end of December.
Ranking Member John McCain: Are they [Iraq] going to be able to build an air force without US presence there?
Gen Lloyd Austin: They-they do have a number of options to both aquire equipment from-from or training from other nations. Certainly --
Ranking Member John McCain: So they would have to aquire equipment and trainers from other nations?
Gen Lloyd Austin: They-they would.
It's been known for years now that the US Air Force will have to be in Iraq beyond 2011 in order to train the Iraqi Air Force. How far back. From the June 14, 2007 snapshot:

The Pentagon report has many sections and one of interest considering one of the 2007 developments may be this: "There are currently more than 900 personnel in the Iraqi Air Force. . . . The fielding of rotary-wing aircraft continued with the delivery to Taji of five modified UH II (Iroquois) helicopters, bringing the total delivered to ten. The final six are scheduled to arrive in June. Aircrews are currently conducting initial qualifications and tactics training. The Iroquois fleet is expected to reach initial operation capability by the end of June 2007." By the end of June 2007? One of the developments of 2007 was the (admission of) helicopter crashes. US helicopters. British helicopters. Some may find comfort in the fact that evacuations and mobility will be handled by Iraqis . . . whenever they are fully staffed and trained. Four years plus to deliver the equipment, training should be done in ten or twenty years, right?

January 29, 2008, on Ned Parker and Saif Hameed's "Bomb Kills 5 U.S. Soldiers in Iraq" (Los Angeles Times):

They note the claims by puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki made over the weekend that can only be described as 'get tough' and how "Additional Iraqi tanks and aircraft arrived in Mosul" and I'll assume they think we're flat out stupid since there's no Iraqi "aircraft" to speak of and the Iraqi air force does not conduct missions and is begging for money to upgrade their air 'power.'

From the November 4, 2008 snapshot:

There's no rush to leave Iraq or even a desire. That needs to be grasped. Iraqi General Nasier Abadi made that pretty clear during Sunday's press conference in the Green Zone. Questioned by the Washington Post's Mary Beth Sheridan as to when the Iraqis would be able to handle "their own internal security . . . how many years are you away from reaching that goal," Abadi tried to distract by listing duties before declaring, "We have no duties or missions to protect the air on the borders of the country. But in case we have this responsibility, there is a brief that -- to the minister of defense, if he ask us to -- task us with that, a reportw ent also to the Prime Minister, what are the capabilities and the army's specifics to do those duties?" Asked how many years again, he responded, "Building an aerial force, building an Army is not easy, but it's still easier than building naval and air force. The naval force, as I said before, that the first ship will come in 2009 and the fourth will arrive in . . . at the end of 2011. In regard to 200- . . . Air Force, the first aircraft we will receive in 2011 until 2015. And that depends on the support and the help that the coalition forces can secure to Iraq so we can be able to maintain and defend our airspace and territories. Without that, there will be also agreements with the neighboring countries on the security of Iraq. But it's possible that we will go with those missions without having an air force or naval force because this is a common battle, it's not just an army's duty." Setting aside the naval force and focusing only on the air, if the period they'll be taking possession of aircraft will last from 2011 through 2015, how likely is it that they will be prepared to handle their own airspaceby the end of 2011?

And the two most recent major articles on this issue were Elisabeth Bumiller's "Iraq Can't Defend Its Skies by Pullout Date, U.S. Says" (New York Times, July 29, 2010) and Gareth Porter's "U.S. Envoy Secretly Offered Troops in Iraq after 2011" (Dissident Voice).
At today's hearing, McCain stated he was "very concerned about Sadr, his activities, his followers and his close ties with Iran as well as Talabani and others. I mean, I'll just be very -- And I'm deeply concerned about that." Talabani does have diplomatic ties to Iran and a bit more than that but I believe John McCain meant "Maliki." If that section had been clear, we'd be highlighting it but the Talabani aspect mucked it all up (especially when al-Maliki is close to Iran and wasn't included in the statement). It was also interesting to watch Jeffrey downplay "king maker" Moqtada al-Sadr. We agree with his comments and have made them here but in light of the press orgasm over Moqtada's (brief) return to Iraq, it was interesting to hear Jeffrey say of al-Sadr's bloc, "But at the end of the day, Senator, they received 660,000 votes out of more than 12 million cast. They have only 39 seats in the coalition which has roughly 300 seats and, uh, their role -- which is relatively minor in the government -- reflects their voting power."
We'll wind down noting Senator Jack Reed's foolishness.
Senator Reed: As the mission migrates from the Dept of Defense and from DoD to the civilian side, the State Dept, as it looks more like foreign aid than supporting troops in the field, the reality, which Senator McCain pointed out, in this environment, is going to be very difficult to sustain and he's also pointed out perceptively if we don't sustain this effort than we have invested a lot of blood and a lot of material in an effort that could be frustrated. That would be a tragedy.
And on that note (Reed and foolish), Wally will pick up tonight at Rebecca's site, Kat will report on the hearing at her site and Ava will cover it at Trina's site. (And we'll link to all three reports in tomorrow's snapshot.)
In Iraq, Ali Abdel Gentlemen (Al Mada) reports, many Iraqis see not the progress Jeffreys spoke of but "a paralysis of government" and more and more and more are taking to the streets to protest "the deterioration of living conditions" which is why leather and textile workers protested in Baghad and Hilla this week and activist Mohammed Salami is quoted stating, "There is daily frustration over the fact that successive political changes have not brought a new [better] level of service." That was earlier this week. Today things were not so peaceful. Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports that the police began shooting at protesters in Diwaniya today (at least three were injured). Approximatley one thousand were out in the streets calling attention to the "shortages of power, water and other services" and they "set tires ablaze, hurled stones and tried to storm the local police station, witnesses said." But Jeffrey wanted to ride yet another wave of Operation Happy Talk while appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
Today Iraq was rocked with violence. Reuters reports 3 Ramabid bombs claimed 6 lives with twelve injured (police's toll is 8 dead and 22 injured), a Ramadi roadside bombing left 4 children and 5 police officers injured, 2 Baghdad roadside bombings claimed 2 lives and left twelve people injured, a third Baghdad roadside bombing injured two police officers, a fourth claimed 2 lives and left four more people wounded, a fifth Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and lef three people injured, a Samarra suicide bomber took his own life and wounded three people, in Tuz Khurmato a police man driving with his family was attacked by gunmen who shot dead 1 of his children and injured "him and two of his other children" and 1 "employee of a government bank" in Baghdad was shot dead. On the suicide bombing, Fang Yang (Xinhua) reports that police in Salahudin Province are claiming credit for 'foiling' a suicide attack by "forcing a suicide bomber to blew up his explosive vest, wounding two people" -- no, that does not sound like foiling to me either. Alsumaria TV drops back to Tuesday today to note, "Two members of Iraqi Intelligence Forces were killed in two separate incidents in Baghdad on Tuesday night. Unknown gunmen opened fire on Tuesday night on the car of Razzaq Qasem Ali, a division chief at Iraqi Intelligence Department, as he was passing near Baghdad gate in Taji District, a police source told Alsumaria News. Qassem Ali was killed on the spot. Another intelligence officer was killed in the same way and in the same region few hours following the first incident."
Yesterday Alsumaria TV broke news. (Again we ask, where are the US outlets?) Despite Nouri and a so-called legal expert insisting that the power-grab (Nouri got the Supreme Court to put independent bodies under his control) was Constitutional, "Alsumaria News got a copy of a document released by Iraq's Supreme Court in 2006 in clarification to the inquiries of the former Parliament's Integrity Commission over the exact meaning of independence mentioned in Constitution Article 102 and the difference in content between Articles 102 and 103. The court's clarification came contradictory with its last ruling on January 18 stipulating to have independent institutions supervised by the Cabinet and not the Parliament." We've pointed out this week that the Electoral Commission has specifically asked the United Nations to step in and the embarrassing nonsense the UN's top person in Iraq, Ad Melkert, offered (boiled down: Ignore this issue, let's focus on the economy!). Yaser Ali (AK News) reports:

Al-Iraqiya deputy Hani Ashour told AKnews that Melkert's comments contravene the mission of the UN in Iraq which is to support the country in its democratic foundations and help the Iraqi people without interfering in constitutional and legal details.
[. . .]
"The natural role of the Council of Representatives is to consider the implications of such decisions through dialogue between parliament and the government to agree on the definition of independence," he told reporters in Baghdad.
Ashour said that the UN must promote the convergence of views between the political parties, and not to offer its support to any one faction.
What is at stake here, said the al-Iraqiya deputy, is the "independence of the Iraqi institutions according to the constitution".

Yesterday, Ousam al Nujaifi, Speaker of Parliament, called out the ruling. Al Mada reports that he is proposing a bill which would clarify roles and re-order the courts.

In other Parliament news, Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that the members of Parliament are being prevented from visiting Iraqi prisons unannounced and an unnamed official in Nineveh states this is due to the fact that a number of prisoners are missing and that these people are being held in secret prisons. Acommok notes the news comes after Human Rights Watch revealed Nouri and his forces are running secret prisons. Iraqhurr.org reports that the Minister of Justice Hassan Shammari met yesterday with the International Committee of the Red Cross Iraq Chief Magne Barth and promised the the ICRC would be able to visit Camp Honor which has been identifed by Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) and by Human Rights Watch as one of the secret prisons. AFP quotes ICRC spokesperson Layal Horanieh stating, "We did talk about access to places of detention, including the place in question in the Green Zone. It is a strong dialogue, a good dialogue and it's a beginning we hope to help us gain access to the places we want to gain access to." AFP also notes that despite the ministry's Deputy Minister Busho Ibrahim claiming last month that the ICRC had inspected Camp Honor, the ICRC "has never inspected the facility."
Meanwhile Ali Abdel Gentlemen (Al Mada) reports that the Cabinet is checking their offices for listening devices, are constructing new office walls out of fear of listening devices and that trust is in short supply with the behavior indicated a state of high anxiety among politicians and an unnamed insider (who plyas "a leading role in a political bloc) declares that "Maliki himself does not trust anyone."

David DeGraw and Amped Status are back up and be sure to check out the site's new look. There are two upcoming actions in the US that will be here before you know it and we'll try to note them at least twice a week in the snapshots until they take place. First, this is the upcoming Iraq Veterans Against the War event:

February 25, 2011 9:30 - 10:30 am
Busboys & Poets, Langston room
14th & V st NW Washington DC
This report back will be to answer questions from media and the peace movement about the recent trip back to Iraq by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The war is not over but it is not the same as it was in years past. What is the humanitarian situation in Iraq?
How can we do reparations and reconciliation work?
Speakers are all returning from this delegation and include:
Geoff Millard (IVAW) Hart Viges (IVAW) Haider Al-Saedy (Iraqi Health Now)
Richard Rowely (
Big Noise Films)
The following month, A.N.S.W.E.R. and March Forward! and others will be taking part in this action:

March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.

The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.

While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.

Actions of civil resistance are spreading.

On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.

Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.

Click this link to endorse the March 19, 2011, Call to Action.