Friday, July 31, 2009
In that form of journalism, a certain privileged class reports the news to suit the members, views and interests of that high class. You’ll never see a sillier example of this than with the Washington Post’s initial reaction to this less-than-earth-shattering incident.
Was Professor Gates mistreated? We still don’t know—and yes, it matters, though not as much as some other things happening in the world. But the Post’s decision to publish that op-ed piece by Professor Lawrence Bobo was truly a clownish decision. Bobo described Professor Gates as his best friend. And Professor Gates is a business partner of the Washington Post.
Have you ever seen it done so cleanly? On Day One, the Post published an absurdly one-sided piece, in which a good friend of one of principals “imagines” what was done to his friend. To his best friend—who is a business associate of the Post. (Nowhere on the op-ed page were you told about that business relationship.)
Truly, that is crony journalism, of the most laughable sort. And let’s be clear: This isn’t the fault of Professor Gates. It’s the fault of the Washington Post.
But by god, we liberals are easy! We buy this garbage, when it favors our guy—the guy we imagine to be on our team. We complain and complain and complain about this—until it favors our tribe!
Gene Robinson pimped for Gates this week. In 1999, he savaged Gore—hard. (Each action reflected the view of the Village.) We liberals, though, are easily bought. The reigning world of liberal leadership crawls with people who put Bush in power though truly ludicrous acts of “journalism.” We’ve never seen a “liberal” ask even one of these people to explain.
For all we know (we alone weren’t there), Professor Gates may be completely correct in what he said about Crowley’s report. We think a real press corps would try to find out, even if it meant omitting that question about body language. But this is about the Washington Post and its model of oligarchic journalism.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to talk Keesha into doing another piece for Third. She and Kimmy Wilder have gotten into it over Kimmy Wilder's increasingly half-baked ideas. I honestly think Kimmy can't blog without toking up.
Kimmy accused Crowley of being a racist repeatedly since the incident was made public. Now she's decided that emphasizing the racist angle has made Whites (racists, White Kimmy tells us they are) decide to go along with Crowley over Barack. So she wants to bill it as police abuse.
Keesha called Kimmy out on what she didn't know (so very much) and Kimmy shot back that she was harassed by the police once, so she is an expert on these things.
An expert on projection?
Kimmy, it's not all about you.
Kimmy Wilder is the I-am-so-much-better wanna be elite Bob Somerby's been warning you about.
Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Friday, July 31, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, bombings targeting mosques rip through Baghdad, the assault on Camp Ashraf continues, the 'withdrawal' is examined, two women tell stories the media hasn't chosen to share, and more.
As anyone even slightly interested in the Iraq War knows, NPR's The Diane Rehm Show remains the only public radio program -- NPR or Pacifica -- on which you can get any sort of regular information and discussion on the war. Most Fridays, during the second hour, the international news hour, Iraq will be a topic. USA Today's Susan Paige filled in for Diane (who returns Monday) and they did have a planned segement about Iraq and they also had callers who asked questions about developments there but, at the very end of today's show, they had two women share their stories and we're going to start with that.
Susan Paige: Let's go to Pamela. She's calling us from New Jersey. Pamela, thanks so much for calling.
Pamela: Yes. Good morning, how are you? Thank you for taking my call. I am responding to a comment I heard earlier and it really just like shot me in my heart. And the comment was that the suicide rates [in the US military] are skyrocketing and how this has to be addressed. And I literally like I said stopped dead in my tracks. I . . . lost my brother in service due to suicide. He was home on a leave and, uh, about to be, pardon me, to go back and to serve and, uh, was, uh -- the difficulty in getting the mental health services I believe that he needed -- I mean he was married with two children -- was most, most difficult and delayed and a long wait and this and that. And then the unfathomable happened and, uh, when I, uh, at times decided to share how he died rather than just say he died in the war and I would say he died by suicide the remark I would hear unfortunately was, "Oh my goodness, he didn't die a hero then." And-and I continually hear this and I guess I want to make a statement that how someone dies, um, should not be -- that -- that is not a definition of how they lived their lives. And here was a good man who gave and did so much for the community and yet because of how he died -- which you know is a mental illness health related, etc. etc. -- he is now being defined as -- not -- as a zero. And not being defined. And I think you know this-this suicide issue is getting way out of control and for every person that dies by suicide there are at least six to ten people that are horribly effected as well to the point where their mental health also, uh, you know, begins to fall apart and the whole mental health, how to get help, starts all over again. And I should say that the support groups for those that lose a loved one by suicide are now separated from regular grief groups and while attending one and sharing how my loved one died, people were going around the room, people said to me, "Oh my God, why is she here?" I've been asked to leave meetings because -- grief support meetings -- because of how my brother died and I don't think that's fair or correct or right and, um, so the issue goes far beyond the pain of losing a loved one and is extremely complicated. And, um, I wanted to share all that. And if ever anybody hears of someone that dies of a suicide please just say "I'm sorry for your loss" and ask about the person. And don't say anything cruel or unkind because, again, how one lives their entire life for 38 years should not be defined by a, you know, a irrational moment that effects -- that became a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Susan Page: Yeah well Pamela we certainly thank your brother for his service and we express our sympathy to your family for this terrible loss. [. . .] Let's go to Mary, she's calling us from San Antonio, Texas. Hi, Mary.
Mary: Hi there. As a matter of fact, that's exactly what I was calling about. My husband is currently on his fourth tour in Iraq which is his fifth deployment in six years. As a matter of fact, he's physically lived at home six months since 2001. There's -- there's two reasons I think why the high suicide rate You have these up tempo deployments. When someone comes back from being deployed in Iraq you have what's called a honeymoon period and it might be a month or several months where everyone's happy to see you and every thing's going fine and then the cracks start to show a little bit the stress that every body's been under -- whether it's the normal stress or maybe PTSD. But by the time that starts to rear it's head, they're back for another deployment again and so those issues don't get addressed. And I live in fear for when my husband is home permanently and I know for certain that we're going to have to address that. My husband told me once a story when they were in Iraq, in a combat mission. There was a young gentlemen, maybe 19, scared to death to go out -- understandably. And he was out maybe thirty minutes and they got hit by an IED. He was absolutely terrified and the next day he had to go back out on another mission. And he did not want to go and he had to. And I asked my husband what do you do in those circumstances? And my husband said "Charley Mike" which is an acronym for CM and it means continue mission. That is the most important thing is you continue the mission and you don't stop until it's complete and then you look back and maybe try to figure out what's wrong with these poor people. The -- I don't care what any senior officials say -- the mental health is abysmal in the military. It's frowned upon, there's not enough services. Also I think because the rest -- only the military is at war and the rest of the country is not, there's not -- there's a big disconnect there and I think that adds to the situation. My husband is proud to do his service. He's happy to be there so many other fathers don't have to be. But he would like at least some acknowledgment and recognition. When you turn on the TV and very little is talked about.
Those stories are not being told. They weren't being told in the 'meanwhile back at home' segments of that trashy (and thankfully cancelled) CBS show and they're not being told on Lifetime's ridiculous Army Wives. There is no place for those stories to be told because there is no interest in telling them. You heard them on The Diane Rehm Show today and you could hear them on the show again. Hopefully, you will, hopefully others will call in on Friday's second hour. But in terms of the media, there's really no where to go except Diane's show. And that's really sad. These are stories of today and people would rather serve up propaganda (I'm referring to all the time Pacifica wastes advocating on behalf of Barack which is not why it has a license and is also not why Lewis Hill created Pacifica to begin with) or waste their time (and your time) in other ways. Those are two stories of the Iraq War. Only two stories of millions. And there's no interest in covering them.
Susan Page was joined by panelists Anne Geran (AP), Demetri Sevastopulo (Financial Times of London) and Barbara Slavin (Washington Times).
Susan Page: We had Defense Secretary Robert Gates make an unannounced visit to Iraq this weekend. Anne, you were with him. Tell us about the trip.
Anne Geran: Well Secretary Gates spent a few days in the Middle East. He was in Israel and Jordan before his trip to Iraq. The main reasons for him to go to Iraq now are to get a, kind of a status assessment after the June 30th handover of Iraqi cities to Iraqis --
Susan Page: Which went well. Right on schedule.
Anne Geran: Yeah, it did go on schedule and the - and the assessments from the top commanders and from Gates himself is that it went better than expected and that there really have been -been relatively few problems. A few hiccups, as Gates put it by -- on the part of people who didn't get the word on down the chain. There have been some problems -- in Baghdad, in Mosul which are the cities that had the greatest problems before June 30th. The other reason he was there was to impress on both the Kurdish leadership in the north and the Arab led central government in Baghdad -- they've been increasingly squabbling with one another -- that the time is running short for US forces to stay there and to keep the lid on this and it's time for everybody to figure out where the line is drawn for the Kurdish self-rule area and figure out their business.
Susan Page: Secretary Gates made some headlines when he said that the United States may be able to speed up the scheduled troop withdrawal of American troops. Does it go beyond the symbolic, Barbara?
Barbara Slavin: Well there are some interesting things going on there. There was a story in today's New York Times, a leaked memo that suggested maybe one reason why the US might pull out more troops sooner is because the Iraqis really don't want us there anymore and want to take back their country which seems pretty logical after more than six years now of US occupation, quasi-occupation. But might understanding is that about 10,000 troops are supposed to come out, were supposed to come out, by the end of the year, and so Gates is talking about another 5,000. That would still leave a fair number, let's see, if I do my --
Anne Geran: About 100,000.
Barbara Slavin: calculation -- over 100,000, during Iraqi elections, national elections, which are scheduled in January but would quicken the pace getting down toward 50,000 by the end of next year.
Susan Page: Demetri, this leaked memo which is on the front page of the New York Times this morning, a memo by a senior US military advisor, Colonel Timothy Reese, which was plenty blunt in its language
Demetri Sevastopulo: It was very blunt and it's not clear -- to me anyway -- whether he posted it himself on other websites or whether it was leaked by other people but it was blunt. It was supposed to be to the American military leaders. He himself is an advisor to the Iraqis. His basic argument was, as Barbara was explaining, 'We've taught' -- the Americans have taught -- 'the Iraqis how to ride the military bicyle. Now they can peddle, they're moving along. They may not be perfect but they're frustrated because the Americans are holding the saddle and not letting them go full steam ahead.' So his argument is, 'Just let them get on with it, we should get out now. They've basically accomplished, in terms of training, everything they're going to be able to do.' But not every one in the American military agrees with that. A lot of people think, 'Hold on second. They actually can't do a lot of the things they need to do yet. And General [Ray] Odierno is the top commander in Iraq -- the top American -- he said while Secretary Gates was there that one of the things that they [the Iraqis] cannot do, they won't be able to before the end of next year is to provide air support for themselves. They don't have the capability or the planes, the fighter jets, to defend themselves.
Susan Page: And what will that mean, Anne, for how this proceeds over the next year or two?
Anne Geran: Well in the very strictly technical sense, it will probably mean the sale of American F-16s to Iraq. They want to buy them, we want to sale them. It's a question of how to do that. They can't be built fast enough or in quantity to get them to the Iraqis before the scheduled US pull-out, get enough of them there. So they're looking a different ways to do that. The Iraqis could also buy Russian or French planes. But beyond that there will - there will have to be a debate and a resolution of the debate at some point of what sort of help the United States provides after the cut-off date? Is it -- is it air support from another countries? Is it air support from inside? Is it continued advisory role? Is it nothing?
Susan Page: And, you know, US -- President Obama talked during the campaign about withdrawing most US combat troops by a - by a certain time. I wonder, Barbara, how many troops will be left when most combat troops are out? I mean there will still be some US presence there.
Barbara Slavin: Well, you know, the Status Of Forces Agreement says all US troops are supposed to be out by the end of 2011 but when the Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki was in town [DC] the other week, he suggested that he might want to request some of them to stay on and, of course, there are weapons, not just F-16s but other kinds of weapons systems, that the Iraqis are - are buying from the US that will need maintenance. So I think one could forsee a continued US presence but nothing like the one we have now.
Susan Page: And this long war will then actually come to a close for the United States?
Demetri Sevastopulo: Well it will come to a close to the extent -- it depends on what the Americans are doing. If you have 30, 40, 50,000 Americans there who are periodically called in to help the Iraqis when they are fighting in Mosul or somewhere else well then the war will have come predominately to an end but there will still be lingering fighting.
First, Sevastopulo is confused about the issue of the air force. Anne Geran, who was present for the remarks Odierno made this week (reported them here), tries to nicely fix the situation. Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) reported Odierno said right now it did not appear likely that Iraq would be able to defend their own air space at the end of 2011. It matters because it goes to the fact that it's not a real withdrawal, a point Sevastopulo seems aware of in his second answer and was probably just confused speaking off the top of his head prior. Independent journalist Dahr Jamail (at CounterCurrents) addresses the realities of the non-withdrawal:
"If the Iraqi forces require further training and further support, we shall examine this then at that time, based on the needs of Iraq," Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently informed President Barak Obama in Washington. While Iraqi and US government officials continue to insist the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq is currently on schedule, only a few thousand US troops have left Iraq since Obama took office, and few, if any, are expected to be withdrawn through the beginning of 2010. From his recent statement, Maliki appears to be willing to accept a long-term stay.
The timeline in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) says that US "combat troops" were to withdraw from Iraqi cities and villages no later than June 30, 2009, and all troops are to be out by December 31, 2011.
Yet on November 17, 2008, in the wake of Iraq's cabinet approving the SOFA, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking member of the US military, immediately began inferring loopholes and possible grey areas, saying the deadline for withdrawal by 2011 should depend on conditions on the ground.
"I do think it is important that this be conditions-based," Mullen told reporters at the time, "And so three years is a long time. Conditions could change in that period of time."
Dahr's latest book is The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and it has just been released this month. As the discussion on NPR noted, the memo by US Col Timothy Reese is still in the news. (It was noted in yesterday's snapshot.) It's posted at various places online. One of the many places you can read the memo in full is here (New York Times) and we're noting this section:The general lack of progress in essential services and good governance is now so broad that it ought to be clear that we no longer are moving the Iraqis "forward." Below is an outline of the information on which I base this assessment:1. The ineffectiveness and corruption of GOI Ministries is the stuff of legend.2. The anti-corruption drive is little more than a campaign tool for Maliki3. The GOI is failing to take rational steps to improve its electrical infrastructure and to improve their oil exploration, production and exports.4. There is no progress towards resolving the Kirkuk situation.5. Sunni Reconciliation is at best at a standstill and probably going backwards.6. Sons of Iraq (SOI) or Sahwa transition to ISF and GOI civil service is not happening, and SOI monthly paydays continue to fall further behind.7. The Kurdish situation continues to fester.8. Political violence and intimidation is rampant in the civilian community as well as military and legal institutions.9. The Vice President received a rather cool reception this past weekend and was publicly told that the internal affairs of Iraq are none of the US's business. Michael Gordon (New York Times) broke the news on the memo yesterday online. His article appears in today's paper (and link is the story which is longer than his report online Thursday). Clicking here takes you to the Times offering various people weighing in -- some of whom seem not to have actually read the memo. Douglas Macgregor makes the strongest argument. PBS' Online NewsHour notes, "A spokeswoman for Odierno said that the memo did not reflect the official stance of the United States military and was not intended for a broad audience, and that some of the problems the memo referred to had been solved since it was written in early July, the New York Times reported." Yes, because July was, like, months ago, totally. Nancy Montgomery (Stars and Stripes) tackles the sotry from the entry point of Odierno's friend Lt Gen Kenneth Hunzeker returning to Iraq:
Hunzeker, who was promoted to lieutenant general and named V Corps commander in August, 2007, said he's always wanted to go back to Iraq. When he visited two months ago, he said he found that "the performance of the Iraqi security forces is pretty good."
Reese, the adviser, disagreed in his memo. He detailed corruption, poor management and a bowing to Shiite political pressure, the Times said. But he wrote that despite deficiencies, Iraqi security forces are now able to protect the Iraqi government.
But there has been growing concern among military commanders about a potentially explosive dispute between the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan and the central government in Baghdad over territory, oil and other resources.
The issues couldn't be settled when the Iraq Constitution was drafted in 2005 -- the parties couldn't agree even which ethnicities lived there -- so it was put off. A clause in the constitution, Article 140, calls for a census followed by a referendum to settle the fate of these areas, including oil-rich Kirkuk. It was supposed to take place by the end of 2007. It still hasn't happened.
It's the last day of the month so the little liars crawl out of their holes. Dan Murphy's had a pretty lousy week but isn't done disgracing the once fabled Christian Science Monitor. In a 'turned corner' piece (of garbage) Danny's hoping people take him at his word and don't go off and do their own research: "The numbers at Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a website that tracks both coalition and Iraqi deaths, appear to confirm the improvement. Their count is typically lower than APs, but the trend is the same. They count 200 Iraqi deaths in July, the third-lowest total for them since January 2006. Their data shows Iraqi deaths peaked at 3,500 in September of that year." Their data shows?
ICCC does a wonderful job of tracking the number of foreign military service members killed in Iraq. It deserves huge applause for that. When an announcement's made by a governmental body, it's noted. And it's great that it's trying to provide some form of a count on Iraqi civilians. But ICCC's in California. It's not in Iraq. So why would anyone use their numbers as anything but a basic guage? Take, for example, the June Security Forces and Civilian deaths -- which is what ICCC tracks. They've got how many for the month of June? 367. Really? Because the Interior Ministry always does an undercount and their count for June was . . . 373. In May, ICCC's saying 188 deaths. I know that's wrong because no one wanted to talk May deaths and the lie was 134 from the Ministry of Health so I went through and counted up reported deaths from Reuters and McClatchy alone and the number -- just those two sources -- was 226. Each day in May is linked to, you can check the reported deaths and you can check the math. There is a big difference between 188 and 226. I'm not attacking ICCC but I am noting that their civilian death count is not something I'd go with unless making repeated qualifiers and doing my best to check out the official figures (from the ministries) and do a count myself to offer the differences.
Dan Murphy's not interested in qualifiers or doing his own research. He's interested in pimping the lie that things are less violent in Iraq. We've said it before, we'll say it again. That 'trend' story falls apart with the month of February and you see an increase in violence. That is the trend that's held since February. Dan Murphy's a non-stop embarrassment for his outlet.
Earlier in the week, Murphy was in titters over the assault on Camp Ashraf and those 'strange' MEK. Today at the Independent of London, non-reporter and human stench Patrick Cockburn is giggling over "the latest episode in the strange history of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq" -- no link to his trash. For the record, when someone's assaulted, their history (or your opinion of it) really isn't an issue. For the record, putting the victims on trial is one of the trashiest things anyone can do. No surprise, Patrick Cockburn does just that. He's not a reporter. AP reports that US "medical professionals" (US military medical staff) were at Camp Ashraf yesterday evening and "evacuated the most seriously wounded to a U.S. military facility for further treatment." Charles Levinson (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed on Thursday to let a small group of journalists into the camp. Visitors were given access to only the few hundred yards of land along the main road controlled by Iraqi forces." But that wasn't the first group of journalists allowed in. The National Council of Resistance of Iran explains that although there is ban on any journalists visiting Camp Ashraf, Nouri al-Maliki has made exceptions . . . for Iranian news outlets. They also alleges that the reporters were actually "a number of agents from the Iranian regime's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and terrorist Qods Force".
Not all in Iraq are going along with the assault. The Iraqi National Dialogue Front has issued a statement decrying the assault: "Ashraf residents have been deeply respected during all these years by the Iraqi people and protecting them against the plots, pressures and political quid-pro-quo deals has turned into a matter of national pride for us. However, with the occurrence of yesterday's crimes, which have left a dark stain on those who ordered and carried it out, Iraq's political forces and people must only distance themselves from it. We declare that this crime has no relation to the people and country of Iraq and demand the trial of all those involved." In addition, 50 Iraqi Members of Paliarment have signed on to a letter addressed to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon decrying the assault, noting the Fourth Geneva Convention is supposed to protect those at Camp Ashraf and calling for the UN to intervene. And NCRI explains:On Thursday evening at 21:00 local time, the al-Arabiya TV channel reported that Mr. Tariq al-Hashemi, the Iraqi Deputy President, wrote a letter to members of the country's presidential council and highlighted the need to demand sufficient explanations from Nouri al-Maliki about the military operation carried out recently in Camp Ashraf.He also demanded to know the reason for performing the operation as well the political objectives to be pursued by the government in the future with regards to dealing with the refugees of the camp.In his letter, al-Hashemi emphasized that from this point on it would be unacceptable for Iraq's presidential council to be surprised every time political or security measures are taken without prior consultation with the council.
The assault was noted on The Diane Rehm Show today:
Susan Page: Here's an e-mail from C. Harvey who says,"Please speak to the Camp Ashraf situation in Iraq and any American responsibility for roll in or lack of ability to prevent the Iraqi attack on Camp Ashraf." Demetri, tell us what's going on?
Demetri Sevastopulo: Well basically you've had a camp of roughly over 3,000 members of this group, the People's, Barbara, correct me if I'm wrong --
Barbara Slavin: People's Mujahedin.
Demetri Sevastopulo: who have been protected by the Americans in Iraq for several years even though the American government considers them to be terrorists. They are dedicated to the overthrow of the Iranian regime. Saddam Hussein basically supported them because he was fighting wars against Iran. The current Iraqi government is more inclined or more aligned towards the Iranian government and so they have been less willing to brook their-their activities. The Americans weren't aware, they say, that the Iraqi authorities were going to authorize their troops to go in and attack this camp. So this is another indication of how the Iraqis are getting out ahead and saying to Americans "we're in charge now."
Susan Page: Should the Americans have been in a position to protect their camp?
Demetri Sevastopulo: Well I don't think the Americans have the ultimate ability to do that anymore because they have kind of pulled back and the problem is when you give a country their solidarity, their soveriegnty, you have to live with that and that's a problem America faces over and over again around the world.
Anne Geran: Well the American military had been arguing essentially with the Iraqi government over what to do about the camp, the MEK as they call it, for some time and they had pulled out full military protection for the camp but still had some advisors around the outside. And the Iraqis did not tell, according to General Odierno, the Iraqis did not tell the US that they were going to go in and do this raid. Odierno was encouraged at first that the raid appeared to be relatively peaceful and bloodless but that changed.
Susan Page: Barbara?
Barbara Slavin: Well this is part of a pattern. Demetri mentioned that the current Iraqi government is much more -- is closer to Iran certainly than Saddam Hussein was and just a couple of weeks ago, the US released some Iranian detainees, some members of the Quods of Jerusaelm Force of the Revolutionary Guards to the Iraqis who immediately turned them back over to the Iranians even though the US had insisted that these were somehow dangerous people. Iraq is reclaiming it's soveriegnty and it's going to do what it's going to do and a lot of these actions might not be quite what the US had in mind perhaps when we went in in 2003.
Leo Shane III (Stars and Stripes) reports, "US embassy officials on Thursday met formally with Iraqi political leaders on the issue of the refugee camp . . . State Department officials said for now the Iraqi government has made no long-term decisions on whether members of the group may be sent back to Iran". Betty weighed in last night on the topic and her thoughts include:
Not that it should matter but Camp Ashfraf isn't a singles complex. Meaning, this has been a home for nearly 3,500 people. A home. Meaning children. And Nouri al-Maliki ordered the assault on the camp Tuesday. They went in with bulldozers, with wooden batons, with sonic grenades, with fire hoses to blast people with water. And Nouri order that.Camp Ashraf has been a home for the MEK for decades. And their homes are being destroyed. And this is why I didn't want Hillary to be Secretary of State. She is going to get blamed for this when it's Barack's fault for not addressing it and for not being firm with Nouri al-Maliki. This is an outrage. And don't give me that bunk about "Iraq's national soveriegnty." If this happened in India, the US would be decrying it. We'd do it in almost every nation. (I doubt we would in Israel, we never really have before.)I don't care what those people in Camp Ashraf believe in or stand for. I care that they are human beings. I care that they are families trying to raise their children. I care that they are people trying to survive. And I care that a government assaulted them and continues to do so. It's not right and I am appalled by the lack of a strong response from the US.I'm not talking, "Bomb em!" There are many ways to respond strongly. For example, those sonic grenades being used? Made in the US. It could be explained to Nouri that US weaponry used against peaceful citizens of Iraq means no more weaponry. (I don't think they need weaponry to begin with.) There is the carrot and the stick and the stick doesn't always have to be violence. Thus far the US has refused to condemn the actions.I will. What Nouri is allowing is an international crime. Excuse me, what he has overseen is an international crime.
That violence is ongoing. It is not the only violence. Chelsea J. Carter (AP) reports on the violence sweeping Baghdad today as attacks on Shi'ite mosques have claimed 24 lives. Reuters explains the death toll climbed 25 and that there have been five bombings. The death toll has continued to climb. Liz Sly and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) report, "In the bloodiest attack, 24 people were killed and 28 injured when a parked car exploded outside a mosque in northeastern Baghdad's Shaab district just as worshippers were leaving prayers.Within the next 10 minutes, four other explosive devices detonated at four other mosques in southern and eastern Baghdad, killing four and injuring 35. The timing suggested a high degree of coordination by the attackers." Citing the Interior Ministry, Sam Dagher (New York Times) counts 136 injured (29 dead) and notes the bombings "took place between 12:46 p.m. and 1:30 p.m." Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) adds "Iraq army and police officers are interpreting [the bombings] as a sign that insurgents are determined to destabilize the country a month now that American forces have withdrawn from Iraqi cities and towns." In other reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a Kirkuk car bombing which claimed 2 lives and left fifteen injured. Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) drops back to yesterday to report a grenade attack on a home in Mosul that claimed 1 lives (husband and wife) and left a child wounded and a roacket attack on a home in Basra which left four people injured.
The ministries in Iraq were mentioned earlier. They can't count but might they take part in kidnappings? News today out of England on the May 29, 2007 kidnappings. Background, 5 British citizens were kidnapped over two years ago in Iraq. Following the US military handing over two brothers said to have been responsible for the attack on a US base in Iraq in which 5 US service members were killed, the group the brothers belong to released two of the five British hostages: Jason Creswell and Jason Swindlehurst. Both men were dead. Alan McMenemy and Alec Maclachlan are also now considered to be dead but the families continue to hope otherwise and at this point nothing is known. Peter Moore is hoped to be alive. He is the fifth hostage. There were supposed to be six kidnappings, not five. The sixth person eluded the kidnappers. He is among those talking to the press in today's news cycle. And now the big news out of England on the kidnappings. The Telegraph of London reports:
An unnamed senior Iraqi intelligence source told The Guardian the highly-organised kidnapping was "one only a government can do".Mr Moore had been installing a computer system to track billions of pounds in foreign aid and oil revenue through the finance ministry.The intelligence source told the paper: "Many people don't want a high level of corruption to be revealed."Remember this is the information technology centre, this is the place where all the money to do with Iraq and all Iraq's financial matters are housed."Paul Wood, a former British Army officer who investigated the abduction for the four bodyguards' employers, GardaWorld, said it was "too perfect"."It would make sense to think that there was someone on the inside telling the kidnappers when to come, what to expect and how to deal with any security issues they were going to face," he told the paper.Meena Muhammed, Maggie O'Kane and Guy Grandjean (Guardian) add:Unknown to the kidnappers, two intelligence officers were parked opposite the centre, outside an outpatients' clinic. Through an intermediary – a former high-level intelligence source – one of the officers described the operation to the Guardian:"The cars started coming down the street and surrounding the ministry. The cars were marked 'ministry of the interior' – they are Toyota Land Cruisers, they belong to the ministry of the interior ... The operation was well planned and they were carrying Kalashnikovs. One group came out with two of the hostages. They put them in the first car. They weren't hooded or handcuffed. Then they brought the other three men out. Then they brought out the men's belongings, their briefcases and rucksacks. They put those things in a separate car."People started gathering around. It was near the al-Rafidain Bank on Palestine Street. The people were gathering around and the kidnappers were shouting: 'Go home now, this is nothing do with anyone. Do not look, this has nothing to do with you.'"For those who would prefer audio, the Guardian offers Maggie O'Kane explaining the story here (and Seth MacFarlane creator of Family Guy and American Dad is also featured in the arts section of the audio).Staying with England, Alsumaria notes, "Former Prime Minister Tony Blair will be called to testify to a panel investigating Britain's involvement in the Iraq war." Wales News reports that the poodle is going to "be grilled on live TV by the official inquiry into the Iraq war, it was announced yesterday." This is the independent inquiry that Gordon Brown (current prime minister of England) promised long ago but is only now getting started and is no longer as limited as Brown announced it would be. Karla Adam (Washington Post) reminds, "When Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the inquiry last month, he initially said it would be held behind closed doors. The decision was reversed after objections from opposition politicians and families of British soldiers who died in Iraq. The war has claimed the lives of 179 British troops, and Brown has described the inquiry as a chance to pinpoint 'lessons learned'." Sir John Chilcot heads the inquiry and CNN quotes him stating, "You can work out for yourself who some of them will be, but apart from the former prime minister [Tony Blair] -- who it's obvious we must see -- I don't want to give a longer list today." Alex Barker (Financial Times of London) observes, "Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat leader, said public hearings were vital to ensure the inquiry was not seen as a 'whitewash'. 'It is essential that this inquiry has the teeth it needs to get the job done. The government must not be able to interfere to keep Blair and Brown out of the spotlight for the sake of political convenience in the run-up to an election'." Peter Riddell (Times of London) adds, "The Chilcot inquiry provides an opportunity for national catharsis over the Iraq war. Its main value is likely to lie less in any startling new disclosures about why the war was fought than in allowing those affected a chance to air their grievances. It will not end the anger and grief but it provides a chance to balance passion with a thorough narrative about what happened over the course of the eight years from 2001 until 2009, and not just in 2002-03." In terms of what to expect timeline wise, the Guardian offers a basic overview here. Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) explains some of the anger over the timeline from the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats (Tony Blair and Gordon Brown both belong to the Labour Party):However, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats said they were still unhappy with aspects of the inquiry. They blame Brown for the way he set it up but, after Chilcot's press conference, they also criticised some of the decisions Chilcot has taken about how it will proceed – showing that he has not yet established cross-party support. Chilcot said the inquiry was unlikely to produce an interim report before the general election – as the Liberal Democrats have been demanding – and said there was no chance of final conclusions being published before polling day.
Yesterday's snapshot covered the US Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing. Last night, Kat covered it at her site -- and she's covering witnesses who blame veterans for the VA's problems so be sure to read her post. The Thursday snapshot has a typo that I need to clear up. We have typos here all the time -- including especially in what I type (I dictate snapshots) -- and it's not a big deal or the end of the world. But yesterday's includes, "On the first panel, Senator Jon Tester asked the VA's Patrick Dunn for some hard numbers. Tester noted, the VA had 406,000 pending claims and wondered how that compared to one year age and Dunn responded that it was about 25,000 to 30,000. " And "year age" should be "one year ago." In addition, Rebecca's mentioned but not linked to. That's my fault because I said copy and paste me from that morning and that morning I hadn't linked to Rebecca in the morning entry. So when it was copied and pasted into the snapshot, no link. On England, please note that Rebecca's covering Gordon Brown and Labour's problems this summer. As she's explained, a friend is doing polling for Labour and she's been brought in before (and will be again) to offer her take on the polling data. She's not being paid for that, she's doing it as a favor for an old friend. Because she's been looking at the data from time to time for months now, she's decided to make the summer at her site about Brown's drag on the Labour party. Rebecca's done a great job and this week the media in Engalnd started having poll numbers to share. Their numbers jibe with what Rebecca was explaining to her readers back in June.
TV notes, NOW on PBS drops back to May 28, 2008 to air:Child prostitution is on the rise not just in other countries around the world, but right here in America. The Department of Justice says, on any given day, tens of thousands of children across America are involved in prostitution. But what's being done to stop it?This week NOW on PBS visits Atlanta, Georgia to see how one American city is handling the tragic phenomenon of child prostitution. It is one of 27 American cities where the problem seems to be spinning out of control."It's one of those issues that doesn't get discussed and therefore there's an assumption that perhaps either it doesn't exist at all or the young women and girls who are prostitutes are there by their own free will," Atlanta's Mayor Shirley Franklin tells NOW.That is a rebroadcast ("This show was originally broadcast on May 30, 2008."), not an update. Bill Moyers Journal feels like a repeat. Are you tired yet of Wendall Potter? Has any been on every bad Pacifica radio show already in the last two weeks? Amy Goodman's had him, even Houston's The Monitor had him -- in all he's been on at least twelve radio programs airing on Pacifica Radio in the last few weeks. Bill's been waiting his turn. Remember, there's no real left, just one dull DULL echo chamber. Washington Week finds Gwen Ifill sitting round the table with Dan Balz (Washington Post), Alexis Simendinger (National Journal) and Charles Babington (AP). Bonnie Erbe sits down with Irene Natividad, Kim Gandy, Tara Setmayer and Margaret Spellings to discuss the week's issues on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, all four PBS shows begin airing tonight on many PBS stations. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Coming Up On 60 Minutes
Screening The TSA Are the hassles passengers endure at airport security checkpoints really making them safer? The Transportation Security Administration says they are, but a security adviser who has advised them says those measures are "security theater." Lesley Stahl reports. Watch Video
Is It Murder? With drunken driving fatalities staying constant despite all the campaigns against the crime, some prosecutors are pursuing harsher penalties against perpetrators, including long prison terms for those who caused deaths. Bob Simon reports. Watch Video
Wyclef Wyclef Jean emigrated to the U.S. as a baby and grew up to live the American dream as a millionaire rock star. He's now using his extraordinary talents and wealth to help his native Haiti. Scott Pelley reports.
60 Minutes Sunday, Aug. 2, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
nprthe diane rehm show
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guardianmeena muhammedmaggie okaneguy grandjeanthe telegraph of londonthe financial times of londonthe times of londonkarla adamthe washington postcnnwales newsalex barkerandrew sparrowpeter riddellalsumaria
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Thursday, July 30, 2009
A teachable e-mail: We got an e-mail yesterday which we thought was very instructive. It came from a serious, intelligent reader. Here’s the relevant portion:
E-MAIL (7/29/09): Once again, Gates' conduct is profoundly irrelevant. The issue is not whether Gates' conduct was offensive; the issue is whether Crowley's arrest of Gates showed racial bias. Personally I think it's pretty clear that it did. Look at what we know:
That was the relevant portion. Remember, we’re talking about Professor Gates’ (imagined) conduct, as “assumed” in Gene Robinson’s column—conduct assumed, for the sake of argument, to be highly officious (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/29/09). Our lightning-fast reply:
REPLY TO E-MAIL: Gates' conduct is (seems) irrelevant to you.
It doesn't seem irrelevant to me, at least as it was “assumed” by Robinson. I think cops (like other people) deserve to be treated with respect. You don't.
That's why Democrats lose.
We added a P.S.: “Don't know how Gates actually acted.”
The e-mail is very interesting—and the e-mailer is a good, smart, decent, serious person. But the only thing the mailer finds relevant is the way the policeman behaved. He doesn’t care about how the (imagined) professor behaved; indeed, he thinks it’s “profoundly irrelevant,” even if the cop got totally sassed and trashed. It doesn’t occur to him that he might care about how each of these people behaved. He cares about how the citizen was treated—not about the cop.
Two things can be true at one time: 1) The arrest may have been unwise, and 2) The cop may have been treated like an ass.
Why couldn’t both things be “relevant?”
A guess: Most American voters will have a different reaction to this event. They will care about how the cop was treated. As we said: For decades, liberals have signaled to American voters that we don’t care very much about cops—or about a range of other working-class people (examples below). When voters see that attitude on the part of liberals, they may vote the other way.
PEW has a new poll and, just to offer an overview, it's not good for Barack. But I'm noting it (and Bob Somerby isn't usually high on PEW, so don't think I'm tacking that on to him, I'm noting it) because it's the first polling I've seen that includes the JuniorGates issue:
Thirdly, Obama’s comments on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. appear to have played some role in his ratings decline. News about the arrest of the prominent African American Harvard professor at his Cambridge home was widely followed by the public and 79% are aware of Obama’s comments on the incident. Analysis of the poll data found that the president’s approval ratings fell among non-Hispanic whites over the course of the interviewing period as the focus of the Gates story shifted from details about the incident to Obama’s remarks about the incident1. Interviews Wednesday and Thursday of last week found 53% of whites approving of Obama’s job performance. This slipped to 46% among whites interviewed Friday through Sunday as the Gates story played out across the nation.
Consistent with this trend, a small re-contact survey conducted Monday night finds a mostly negative reaction, particularly among whites, to Obama’s comments on the controversy, even though the public is closely divided over who was at fault in the original dispute. Based on what people have heard about the incident in Cambridge, 27% of blame Gates, 25% fault the police officer, 13% volunteer both or neither, and 36% offer no opinion. However, more people disapprove (41%) than approve (29%) of the president’s handling of the situation. And by a margin of about two-to-one, more whites disapprove (45%) than approve (22%).
No, it wasn't smart for Barack to wade in when he didn't have the facts. And it may have hurt his standing. It certainly derailed his health care push last week. I'm not for the health care push. A) We still don't have a concerte proposal. B) It's not single-payer. C) Any plan that has to wait until 2013 to kick in really isn't something we need to rush in.
But he wanted it. He wanted to rush in. He could've left it at, "I don't have the facts." He didn't. And now the question for him has to be was it worth it?
And with all the egg heads feeding into the frenzy non-stop, it's not just him. Please, they're the ones who got it out there. Suddenly they had Barack to hide behind. That idiot Amy Goodman did it again today. (Go read Ava and C.I.'s "TV: Goody Liar" if you haven't already.) Look at the way she spins it today:
Obama to Host Scholar, Arresting Officer at White House
After meeting Arroyo, Obama will host both the prominent African American scholar Henry Louis Gates and the white police officer who arrested him earlier this month. The White House says the three will join their families for a picnic outside the Oval Office. The gathering comes one week after Obama said the police officer had acted “stupidly” in arresting Gates, who entered his home after struggling with a jammed front door.
The officer has no name but he's White. What do you think would happen to Goody Liar if she did that with an African-American person? She'd be called out for it. "Obama will host both the respected White police officer Sgt. Crowley and the black man whom he arrested earlier this month." She'd be called out. And I put White and Black in caps here but I was following her example. Now notice, "stupidly."
That's whose pimping it: Amy Goodman. She leaves out the fact that he retracted his words last Friday. She's still whoring it out. I really am hating her. She's not a friend to African-Americans. She's, as C.I.'s explained, trying to outrage us -- it's her Saul Alensky nonsense. Rub us raw, make us develop wounds, and then we'll join her in the radical vanguard and take down the system (she needs us to do the taking down, coz her rich White ass ain't risking nothing).
Now I'm not in love with Barack. Hillary was who I supported and when the nomination was stolen and when we were disrespect (we being the sixteen million plus who supported the strongest candidate), Barack had a chance to earn my vote. He just had to leave Pie In The Sky and get specific. He didn't because he couldn't. I'm for ending the Iraq War. I voted for Ralph Nader and am proud I did. I don't reward sexism anymore than I reward racism. And I don't vote for people who tell us one thing while their advisor (Samantha Power) goes to the BBC (March 2008) and explains to Brits that Barack's not really promising anything.
So it's really no skin off my nose if he stews in the clay pot he made with his pottery wheel. But people like Amy Goodman sold out all their integrity to get him into office (Goody profitted somewhat by selling inuaguration tickets for thousands of dollars as a fundraiser for her show) and presumably they do give a damn about hurting his image. So maybe it's past time they started acting like adults and stopped running people away from the Democratic Party? (Yes, I know, Amy Goodman's not a Democrat.)
Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, July 30, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the assault on Camp Ashraf continues, the inquiry into the Iraq War begins in England, a US military colonel in Iraq advises that the US needs to remove all forces by August 2010, a Senate committee hears testimony stating the federal circuit should be removed from the VA appeals process, and more.
Yesterday's snapshot included quoting Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) report, "The Iraqis will be unable to handle their own air defense after all American troops withdraw from the country by the end of 2011, the top commander of American forces in Iraq said Tuesday. . . . Asked if the Iraqis would be in a position to fly their own defensive air patrols at the end of 2011, when a United States agreement with Iraq calls for all American troops to be out of the country, General Odierno replied, 'Right now, no'." And then noting, "If you don't realize what a shock Bumiller's article is and how much it needs to be buried for some, note how heavily an AP story about Gates declaring maybe some US troops may leave earlier. Some. May. Some. News gets in the cycle, better dump a bunch of fluff. " Bumiller was one of the few to cover that but the fluff made it everywhere. Surprising when you consider, as Katie Couric noted on yesterday's CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, that there are 130,000 US forces in Iraq, "10,000 are scheduled to be withdrawn by the end of this year. According to Gates, 5,000 more could be home for the holidays." Of the 'news,' Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) notes, "Obama has broken a campaign promise to take a brigade a month (I think he was right to do this, but that's neither here nor there.) Right now, we have about as many troops in Iraq as on average over the last six years." Instead of actually writing about the assault on Camp Ashraf, Ricks strings together a small number of words with a link to Juan Cole.
Juan Cole's post that went up early, early Thursday morning -- this morning -- demonstrates both all that's wrong with the Iraq 'coverage' and all that's wrong with I'm-for-the-war-I'm-against-it-I'm-for-it-again Juan (and don't bother disputing that, I'm not Steve Rendall, I can nail it to the wall because I actually do the work). At his laughably named "Informed Comment," he had to do an update to a post written this morning, an update that says "The Iraqi government is now acknowledging that 7 MEK members were killed in the assault on Camp Ashraf." Prior to that Juan can't tell you anything about deaths. Not even a "one side claims . . . and the other claims . . ." But Juan's just discoved, late today, that the Iraqi government said 7 were killed. Juan just discovered that. Late today. Informed Comment? From yesterday's snapshot, "Alsumaria quotes an unnamed Iraqi security source stating '200 Iranian residents and 50 Iraqi security forces [were] wounded' and that Nouri ordered the assault. [. . .] Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reveals Iraq's Interior Ministry is admitting to 7 deaths -- MEK is stating they have lost 11 members." So 'professor' Juan, at "Informed" Comment, decides to weigh in this morning and doesn't even know the basics -- and a death total would be among the basics. Informed, my ass.
"What happens when the US abandons some good friends?" Katie Couric asked that at the start of yesterday's CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, The footage of the assault was shown. Footage. What other network newscast made time for this story? And while you're checking that, step on over to PBS and find out if The NewsHour made time for the story. (Answer: No.) Footage of the assault. Footage and violence supposedly drive TV news so what's the excuse for the silence from others on Camp Ashraf? From the segment on Camp Ashraf (link has text and video):
Katie Couric: When the US began turning over security to the Iraqis, it stopped protecting some valuable allies, thousands of Iranian exiles. And their camp outside Baghdad is now under attack. For two days, Iraqi police have been beating the residents. No food or doctors have been allowed in. All with the approval of Iran's government. Here's chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan.
Lara Logan: It started peacefully but quickly turned violent. Iraqi police using wooden sticks against these unarmed civilians. These people are Iranians living inside Iraq, members of an Iranian opposition group known as the MEK. It was the MEK that provided the US with intelligence on Iran's nuclear program.
Ali Safavi (Nationcal Council of Resistance of Iran): Were it not for the MEK, the world would not be in a position to find out about Iran's nuclear weapons program and the mullahs may have had the bomb.
Lara Logan: The MEK have lived in this camp, known as Camp Ashraf, for decades. The Iranian government wants them expelled and accuses them of being involved in the recent unrest in Iran. Since the US invasion, the camp's roughly 3,000 residents have been living under US protection. That ended in January when the Iraqis took control under the security agreement. Now the US appears to have washed their hands of the people of Ashraf. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (speaking at the State Dept): It is a matter now for the government of Iraq to resolve. Lara Logan: Images captured by the inside Ashraf showed the dead and wounded. Residents told CBS News at least 11 people were killed, hundreds wounded and thirty arrested. The number's impossible to verify because the Iraqi government has sealed off the camp. The attack was seen as the latest sign American influence in Iraq is waning as Iranian influence rises. Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government increasingly pro-Iranian. Kenneth Katzman: The Iranians would have to cross the border to get at them directly because Camp Ashraf is clearly over the border. But they have an obviously willing ally in Prime Minister Malik, willing to do their bidding.
Lara Logan: The Iranian government praised the Iraqi governement action against MEK saying they're cleaning the country of terrorists.
This morning, AFP reported that while Iraq says everything is under 'control' and a police station is set up, Iraq's refused to allow reporters to enter the camp. Not noted in the report, they're also rebuffing requests from human rights organizations and charities. But today in a US State Dept briefing, spokesperson Ian Kelly asserted the US military now had access.
Ian Kelly: Embassy officials met yesterday with representatives of the government of Iraq. We wanted to stress the importance to the government of Iraq, the importance of Iraq fulfilling its commitment to the US government to treat the camp residents humanely. And we also proposed permitting an assessment of injuries and possible deaths, an assessment by US forces. The government of Iraq did agree to allow US forces to provide medical assistance to those who were injured in Camp Ashraf. And there is, right now, a US medical team there performing this assistance. We're providing medical care and treatment, medical supplies and assessing any kind of follow-on treatment or support that these residents might require. And regarding other issues regarding Camp Ashraf, we'd refer you, of course, to the government of Iraq.
UPI notes, "Statements by members of the PMOI blame Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for the assault on the Ashraf residents. The PMOI claims several hundred residents were severely wounded, with at least 12 people dead." An Iraqi security official (unnamed) tells AFP that 11 MEK have died -- seven on Tuesday and two on each day since. Sebastien Malo (The Daily Star) reports that tensions remain high and that the assault continues -- the most recent "clashes occurred on Thursday morning according to [MEK spokesperson Shariar] Kia." Kia refuted rumors that the MEK has weapons noting that Camp Ashraf has been inspected repeatedly and he noted that residents had begun a hunger strike. The weapons charge is ridiculous and it needs to be noted that the Iraqi government is trying to circulate false rumors that MEK have shot one another to garner sympathy from the world. Yes, Nouri is just that stupid and sick. This is the thug the US installed. Oliver August (Times of London) observes the Iraqi government's "brazen actions show that the balance of power in Baghdad has shifted in ways unthinkable when President Bush was in office, or even a few weeks ago." Robin Corbett (Guardian) points out:
The violent attack on the residents of Ashraf City was a clear indication of the Iranian regime's growing influence in Iraq and the coalition's failure to uphold international law.
In scenes reminiscent of those seen on the streets of Iran: unarmed civilians were attacked with batons, chains, hot-water cannons, rocks, armoured personnel carriers and machine guns. In video footage released by the residents, civilians inside the camp are brutally beaten, while bodies of the dead victims show gunshot wounds as the cause of numerous deaths.
The underlying message of the attack, which is still continuing, is the incredible influence that the Iranian regime now holds. However far it has infiltrated Iraq and caused violence there since the 2003 invasion, it seems that the regime now has a willing partner in Nouri al-Maliki to do its bidding in eliminating the main Iranian opposition group, the People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI), which is based in Ashraf.
PMOI members there are "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention, but the attitude of the US administration and UK government has been far from forceful. To look on as civilians are killed and wounded is nothing but shameful.
Sonic grenades are said to be used by the Iraqis, ones made by Defense Techonology in Casper, Wyoming. I believe this is exactly what now Vice President Joe Bidenwarned about in an April 2008 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing back when he was a senator and chair of that committee. We'll come back to that. The National Council of Resistance of Iran released the following statement today:NCRI - The Iranian Resistance's Leader, Mr. Massoud Rajavi, released a statement broadcast yesterday by the Simaye Azadi (Iran National Television), with regards to the brutal assault of Iraqi forces against Camp Ashraf residents in Iraq. Mr. Rajavi said: Through his agents in Iraq, the regime's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, took revenge for the Iranian people's uprising from Ashraf, which is the strategic nucleus of the struggle for freedom. He wishfully thinks that by targeting Ashraf the uprising would cease; But, the water that has already gone over the dam can't be forced back into the regime's channel and save the disintegrating religious regime. Mr. Rajavi urged all Iranians across the world to rush to support the hunger strike and demands of Ashraf residents, which are: 1. The leaving of Iraqi forces from Ashraf; 2. Protection of Ashraf to be assumed by US forces, who have disarmed and signed agreements with every single one of Ashraf residents about protecting them until the determination of their final status; 3. Presence of lawyers and international human rights organizations in Ashraf, which has been banned for the past 7 months; 4. Presence of a representative of the UN Security Council or Secretary General in Ashraf for talks about the determination of the final status of Ashraf residents; 5. Compliance of the Iraqi government with the April 24, 2009 resolution of the European Parliament on the humanitarian situation of Ashraf residents; 6. Prosecution and punishment of parties who ordered or perpetrated the brutal attacks and massacre in Camp Ashraf by an international tribunal for crimes against humanity.
At Thomas Rick's post linked to earlier, the New York Times' Bill Keller leaves a link promoting an article at the outlet he's executive-editor of. Are times really that tough? Will Keller next be forced to stand in the center of Times Square crying, "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!"? If so, it would probably be preferable to Bill's attempts to flaunt his 'education.' Translation, his Diogense reference may impress the same people who thought Diane Chambers (Cheers character) was educated. Those of us who studied philosophy in grad school? We're aware that he doesn't grasp the name he dropped (even if we're generous and apply to it either Digoenes -- Laertius or Sinope). We're also aware it was pretty stupid not to have indicated which one he was speaking of but that it was pretty pretentious to drop to begin with.
So what had Bill Keller flaunting his poor education? Michael R. Gordon's report on a memo written by Col Timothy R. Reese ("adviser to the Iraqi military's Baghdad command") which states:
As the old saying goes, "Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days. Since the signing of the 2009 Security Agreement, we are guests in Iraq, and after six years in Iraq, we now smell bad to the Iraqi nose. [. . . ] The massive partnering efforts of U.S. combat forces with I.S.F. [Iraqi Security Forces] isn't yielding benefits commensurate with the effort and is now generating its own opposition. We should declare our intentions to withdraw all U.S. military forces from Iraq by August 2010. This would not be a strategic paradigm shift, but an acceleration of existing U.S. plans by some 15 months.
Because the US military is now becoming sitting ducks. Barack "stupidly" made the decision to continue the illegal war. And each day, thug Nouri takes a piss on the US military. Pressed and aware his puppet masters are watching, he'll say, "Oh, we shouldn't have prevented the US miltiary from responding to an attack on them." But it happens again. (It has happened more than once already.) They're sitting ducks and, we'll repeat, when a Somolia event happens, Barack's going to finally learn the meaning of outrage. It won't be pretty. The illegal war is unjust and needs to end for that reason alone. But it's equally true that Barack's actions (actually, his inaction, Bully Boy Bush was better at playing bully and keeping Nouri in line, Barack fawns over Nouri) are endangering the US miltiary. They need to be out of Iraq immediately. Col Reese is not a crackpot, nor is he alone in his assessment within the US military. Many in the brass are making comments that they may start taking public. The US military, at present, are sitting ducks. And the military brass blames the ineffective actions of Barack for that. (Some also think that Barack fell into the trap the previous administration set for him. Either way, it's due to his own ignorance.)
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded eighteen people, a Qaem city suicide car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left twenty injured. Reuters notes the Qaim bombing death toll has risen to 4 and a bombing of the Reform and Development Movement's offices in Baquba which resulted in the deaths of 6 men and 1 woman who were attending a meeting at the time.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 traffic police officers shot dead in Mosul.
In England, an inquiry is being conducted into the Iraq War and commenced this morning. No report is expected to be released prior to their national elections. Even so, as Rebecca's pointed out, Gordon Brown's taking a hit on this (deserved). Carole Walker reports on the inquiry for BBC (link has video and text) and we'll note her opening for recap:The official end of the British military mission in April of this year, cleared the way for this inquiry. Its aim is to learn the lessons of the conflict which claimed the lives of 179 British service men and women. When Gordon Brown announced the inquiry last month, he said evidence would be heard in private to protect national security. But after numerous protests, the man appointed to head the inquiry, Sir John Chilcot, said he believed that as much as possible should be held in public. Now some want the scope of his inquiry to be extended.Francis Elliott and Sam Coates (Times of London) explain, "Tony Blair was today confirmed as one of the witnesses who will appear before Britain's long awaited inquiry into the Iraq war as it was launched with a promise to level criticism where necessary. The former prime minister is likely to be joined by Gordon Brown among those called to give evidence." Deborah Summers, Andrew Sparrow and Haroon Siddique (Guardian) quote Chilcott, "The inquiry is not a court of law, and nobody is on trial. But I want to make something absolutely clear -- the committee will not shy away from making criticism. If we find that mistakes were made, that there were issues which could have been dealt with better, we will say so frankly."
Yesterday's snapshot offered some coverage of the US House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing entitled Meeting the Needs of Injured Veterans in the Military Paralympic Program. Kat offered more last night at her site, focusing on US House Rep Ann Kirkpatrick's questioning of the second panel. The snapshot was long (too long) and had to be edited which meant losing some details of that hearing and all details of another hearing which we'll cover today, the US Senate's Committe on Veterans Affairs hearing entitled the Review of Veterans Disability Compensation: Forging a Path Forward. I had copies of Senator Daniel Akaka's opening statement and Richard Burr's -- Akaka's the Chair, Burr's the Ranking Member but I was only present for the second panel where Michael P. Allen (Steston University College of Law), Daniel Bertoni (GAO) and John WIlson (Disabled American Veterans) testified (via a friend, Congressional staffer, we'll briefly note one section from the first panel).
In his prepared opening statement, Chair Akaka noted, "My goal is to ensure that claims are adjudicated accurately and in a timely fashion. Everyone involved realizes that there is no quick fix to solving all the problems with disability claims, but the Committee, teaming with the Administration and those who work with veterans, intends to do all it can to improve this situation. To bring optimal change to a process as complicated and important as this, we must be deliverative, focused, and open to input from all who are involved in this process. It is in that spirit that we have held previous hearings, and it is the backdrop for this hearing as well." Ranking Member Burr's prepared remarks included, "It takes more than five months on average for VA to make an initial decision on a claim for veterans' benefits and, if the veteran decides to appeal, the delays can go on for years. In fact, Professor Allen noted in a recent article that the average time from when a veteran files a claim with VA until getting a decision by the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims is between five and seven years! I think a process that takes that long is indefensible. Our veterans and their families deserve better."
On the first panel, Senator Jon Tester asked the VA's Patrick Dunn for some hard numbers. Tester noted, the VA had 406,000 pending claims and wondered how that compared to one year age and Dunn responded that it was about 25,000 to 30,000. Tester wanted to know at what point a claim gets a red flag and the VA works on addressing it? At 365 days, Dunne said, the claim is referred to a team known as the VA Tiger Team. This is not when appeals make the claim reach 365 days. This is before any appeal is made. Point being, there are claims being filed by veterans that the VA is not getting and veterans are waiting over a year. How many, Tester wanted to know? About 11,000 was the number Dunne provided.
And as outrageous as that number is, grasp that all the numbers are climbing each month, the number of claims pending. Tester asked about more employees being added but Dunne didn't want to go for that and claimed more employees would mean more administrative duties -- Dunne, in effect, said the VA doesn't need more employees. In one year, these numbers will be higher. "We haven't hit break even yet, we're still going the wrong direction," Tester stated. In one year's time, no one better play surprised when the number have risen yet again.
Senator Patty Murray introduced the second panel and took over the chair duties. Michael Allen, in his prepared statement, provided an overview of the process, "A veteran wishing to receive a benefit to which she believes she is entitled begins the process by submitting an application with one of the VA's regional offices (RO). If the veteran is satisfied with the benefits awarded, the process is at an end. However, there are a number of reasons why the veteran may be dissatisfied with the RO's decision. When the veteran is dissatisfied with the RO's decision, she has the option to pursue an appeal within the Department by filing a 'Notice of Disagreement' (NOD) with the RO. The NOD triggers the RO's obliagation to prepare a 'Statement of the Case' (SOC) setting for the bases of the decision being challenged. If the veteran wishes to pursue her appeal after receiving the SOC, she must file VA-Form 9 with the RO indicating her desire that the appeal be considered by the Board of Veterans' Appeals ('Board')." That provides a strong overview of the process (which continues into the courts). Having submitted his prepared remarks, Allen wisely used his opening remarks to speak to the committee, not read from his written remarks. His verbal remarks can be boiled down to his advocacy for "a working group to study the system. What changes can be made in the process from beginning to end including judicial review?"
Tester reviewed the number on the first panel for claims filed, not appeals (Dunne told Tester he didn't have numbers on the appeals but would get back to him with them). The GAO's Daniel Bertoni stated on the second panel that the VA is taking 96 days more to resolve appeals than it did in 2003 and he stated this had to do with workload. (Remember, Dunne rejected the idea that the VA needs more employees to handle caseloads.) Bertoni presented those figures while reading aloud from his prepared remarks. He ran out of time and never got to this section, "We have reported that an infusion of a large number of staff has the potential to improve VA's capacity. However, quickly absorbing these staff will likely pose human capital challenges for VA, such as how to train and deploy them. The additional staff has helped VA process more claims and appeals overall, but as VA has acknowledged, it has also reduced individual staff productivity. . . . According to VA, this decline in productivity is attributable primarily to new staff who have not yet become fully proficient at processing claims and to the loss of experienced staff due to retirements. VA expects its productivity to decline further before it improves, in part because of the challenges of training and integrating new staff."
We'll note this exchange where one witness (and only one) advocated for cuttng the federal court out of the review process.
Senator Patty Murray: Mr. Bertoni, let me begin with you. You testified that the VA has not collected date to evaluate the impact of using the resource centers to redistribute work load. We've heard that mentioned by several of our colleagues this morning concerning that. Can you tell us what measurement you would recommend the VA use to evaluate the effectiveness of these center?
Daniel Bertoni: I think critical to any process -- any of these processes-- timeliness, accuracy and consistency. I-I think it behoves any manager as opposed to going out talking to the troops trying to discuss issues on sight -- that's all important and good but I-I think there's no substitute to the data -- to help management make good date driven decisions. So if you have a resource center and there is indications -- and you do the analysis -- and indications of problems in certain areas, you can take, make remedial interventions. To date, I don't believe that is occuring. I think even most very recently, I don't believe there were any quality assurance reviews being conducted. That would be first and foremost very critical. What type of quality assurance reviews are being done? What is the MI data showing? And what do you do with that data going forward to make the interventions that need to be done?
Senator Patty Murray: Okay, thank you very much for that. Mr. Allen, you talked about the current structure for judicial review of veterans benefits and it has two appellate levels of the veterans court and federal circuit that you indicate increased delays and can be duplicative. You raised the option of removing the federal circuit from the structure of the veterans benefits determination process one way of perahps delaying or reducing some of the delays in this system. Didn't sound like you were 100% committed to that. Can you tell us why you sort of lean towards the federal circuit?
Michael Allen: Sure, Senator, let me start out by saying that it seemed to me that when Congress created the Veterans Corps, one of the things it was trying to do was to create an independent body to review these issues outside of the VA and that that body would be the expert in that area of the law. But since this was a new process, it provided for this second layer of review at the federal circuit. Now I should say that the level of review at the federal circuit is not plenary, is not total. The federal it doesn't have jurisdiction to review any matter of fact or quite oddly any application of law to fact. It, in theory, should only review pure questions of law. Now it made perfect sense to structure the system, at least in my view, at the time like that. Today I think that on balance it's not worth having the federal circuit involved anymore. I don't say that lightly because that is a major change And what it goes to is that what are the competing values that one wants? Because if the value that was absolutely top on the list was making sure that the maximum number of judges' eyes looked at a case, figuring that would reduce over all inaccuracy in decision, well then it might make sense to have this two level court. To use a silly analogy if you're absolute 100% number one value in a day in making sure that your pants don't fall down wearing belt and suspenders makes perfect sense. It is not irrational because that is your value. But I think that for the federal circuit employment here it is not having the maximum number of eyes looking at a case because over time having that second layer review has increased delay and I am not sure -- I'm sure myself, that it has not increased the quality of veterans law sufficiently to justify its continued place in the system.
Senator Patty Murray: Okay Colonel Wilson have you given any thought to a proposal to remove the federal circuit from the veterans benefits determination process and what that would mean?
John Wilson: No ma'am, I have not but would be glad to respond later.
Senator Patty Murray: If you could respond to the committee, I'd appreciate it. Mr. Bertoni, do you have any input on that?
Daniel Bertoni: I would say we have not looked into that or given any considerations there but I would say the would be a range of stakeholders that you would have to bring in to get --
Senator Patty Murray: That's why you suggested the commission, right?
Daniel Bertoni: Yes.
Michael Allen: Yes, that's right senator.
Senator Patty Murray: Alirght. Senator Burr?
Senator Richard Burr: Mr. Allen, you're right. It is a major shift. But I think we're all challegned to look at it in a different context and I was serious months ago when I suggested to the service organizations, let's start with the blank sheet of paper and come in and tell you how you would design it in the 21st century. To the credit of DAV they took on the task and I'm appreciative of that. You're right when you mention the word commission. What little bit of hair I have on the back of my neck did stand up. So let me ask, what additional information do you believe a commission would find that we don't have readily available to us today?
Michael Allen: I thought of two ways to respond to that. The first and most direct is I don't know what additional information the commission would have that you don't and I don't mean to refer back to [former] Secretary [of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld but there are things that we know we don't know out there. But more importantly, Senator, I think --
Senator Richard Burr: And that was sort of the basis of why you had the creation of the VA appellate process and the federal court. We didn't know what we were going to run into.
Michael Allen: Absolutely and second, though Senator, I think that the key, because I think that this has been the key over time as various veterans benefits issues have been discussed, is it reaches a tipping point when enough of the relevant constitutincies come together on an idea. And I don't know whether something can truly be successful if it's in fact deemed to be imposed.
Senator Richard Burr: How long do you think a commission would need to do -- need to take to accomplish the work that you perceive a commission should -- should attempt to
Michael Allen: Part of it would be how broadly the commission should be structured. In-in-in my perfect world, I would say that it should actually be a commission that looks at the claims processing from cradle to grave because the situation we have now, some have described it as a spider web, and that's not quite right, I think, because it is an older spider web -- the administrative process -- on which a new spider web has been grafted and anything you do to one part is going to effect another. And I think now that we have a system that we have seen if it starts at the beginning and looks at the end because things that are done at claims processing on the administrative level are going to make a difference in the judicial review arena as well and vice versa so if the process were from beginning to end, I think, this could probably be done -- with commitment -- in-in six months.
Lastly, for those wondering about the KRG elections. Some outlets are reporting things. These are a prelimnary count, not an official one and the KRG has made no announcement regarding the elections yet -- not even the most basic assumption that the current president, Masoud Barzani, was re-elected as president. We'll wait for the official results or until the KRG issues their statement, which ever comes first. The KRG does note the following from the US Embassy in Iraq on the elections:
The US Embassy in Baghdad congratulates the people of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for coming out to vote in large numbers for the regional presidential and parliamentary elections, thus demonstrating their commitment to the democratic process. Representatives from the US Mission in Iraq closely followed the elections at polling stations throughout the Kurdistan Region. The Embassy commends the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and its staff for efficiently organizing and conducting the elections. We call upon all citizens to remain patient as election results are tabulated and certified, and as IHEC reviews complaints that have been filed.
And they note this statement from UK MP Dave Anderson (Labour Party):
I am glad to hear that initial reports from the elections in the Kurdistan Region indicate a large turnout, especially among women voters, and which the UN says took place in an orderly environment, notably free of violence. We congratulate the Iraqi Kurds on this and look forward to working with the President, Government and all parties in Parliament to cement links between Iraqi Kurdistan and the UK. As our recent fact finding delegation reported there are great opportunities for increased trade investment and a host of cultural sporting social and other exchanges.
At present, that's all that's known about Saturday's elections.
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