Monday, July 20, 2009

Health care, Barry, Chris Hedges and more

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barry and TOTUS" takes on Barry O and his teleprompters.

Barry and TOTUS

Now the Los Angeles Times has a headline which stood out to me, "Obama demads Congress move quickly on healthcare reform." Mark Silva is the reporter and what is this? Did Barry just realize Congress has an August recess? Did he just realize that if he didn't get it rammed through before the recess, it wasn't happening?

He promised this would take place before the recess. So I guess he knew about the August recess but just got too busy being a celebrity and forgot. Poor baby.

Ava and C.I.'s "TV: Meet The Fockers" covers, among other things, the media and health care. You really need to read it if you haven't already. And in the "Roundtable" (also Third), health care came up:

Jim: Okay, question comes in from Major who says that's his first name, not a rank. He wants to know why the health care plan of Barack's isn't being covered here or at any community site?

Wally: What plan? There's no plan. A plan is something you present to the people, you say, "This is our plan. Do you support it?" There's no plan.

Cedric: And, let me drop back to Sotomayor. If Carter or Clinton had nominated her, I might have given her more of a benefit of a doubt. But she's a Barack nominee. Barack who nominated Larry Summers to his current post to 'fix' the economy. Barack who has Arne Duncan to 'fix' the school system. I mean the bulk of Barack's nominees scream, "Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!" So then you get to a health care plan from Barack and that's already going to raise my suspicion and then when, as Wally pointed out, you've got him rallying his online groupies to 'support' his 'plan' that doesn't exist? I'm not wasting my time.

Ann: I could have covered it. I filled in for Ruth and just finished filling in for Mike and the scope I was given was what ever you want to write about. So I could have grabbed the topic. I didnt' because there's nothing to advocate for or against. Cedric and Wally have really said it all. Barack can keep saying it's a "must" but he's yet to tell us what the reform is.

Wally: Why are we going to waste our time covering something that doesn't even exist, that's not even a concrete proposal? There's so much more out there.

That is our attitude and we are pimping Barry O's non-plan. Do I look like the Media Liar Robert Reich? I know we are supposed to pretend he's a big hero. Well I heard Connect The Dots with Lila Garrett this morning (KPFK) online and I was shocked to hear Reich going with the exact same talking points I heard from the liars over the weekend (including Meet The Press) and Reich taped his interview with Garrett last week (Wednesday). So I have no respect for him anymore.

This is from Chris Hedges' "War Without Purpose" (Information Clearing House):

Al-Qaida could not care less what we do in Afghanistan. We can bomb Afghan villages, hunt the Taliban in Helmand province, build a 100,000-strong client Afghan army, stand by passively as Afghan warlords execute hundreds, maybe thousands, of Taliban prisoners, build huge, elaborate military bases and send drones to drop bombs on Pakistan. It will make no difference. The war will not halt the attacks of Islamic radicals. Terrorist and insurgent groups are not conventional forces. They do not play by the rules of warfare our commanders have drilled into them in war colleges and service academies. And these underground groups are protean, changing shape and color as they drift from one failed state to the next, plan a terrorist attack and then fade back into the shadows. We are fighting with the wrong tools. We are fighting the wrong people. We are on the wrong side of history. And we will be defeated in Afghanistan as we will be in Iraq.

The cost of the Afghanistan war is rising. Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed or wounded. July has been the deadliest month in the war for NATO combatants, with at least 50 troops, including 26 Americans, killed. Roadside bomb attacks on coalition forces are swelling the number of wounded and killed. In June, the tally of incidents involving roadside bombs, also called improvised explosive devices (IEDs), hit 736, a record for the fourth straight month; the number had risen from 361 in March to 407 in April and to 465 in May. The decision by President Barack Obama to send 21,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan has increased our presence to 57,000 American troops. The total is expected to rise to at least 68,000 by the end of 2009. It will only mean more death, expanded fighting and greater futility.

We have stumbled into a confusing mix of armed groups that include criminal gangs, drug traffickers, Pashtun and Tajik militias, kidnapping rings, death squads and mercenaries. We are embroiled in a civil war. The Pashtuns, who make up most of the Taliban and are the traditional rulers of Afghanistan, are battling the Tajiks and Uzbeks, who make up the Northern Alliance, which, with foreign help, won the civil war in 2001. The old Northern Alliance now dominates the corrupt and incompetent government. It is deeply hated. And it will fall with us.

There is a US soldier in Afghanistan who has been captured, Bowe Bergdahl. Ava and C.I. cover it in their report I linked to earlier. I'd say that has much more news value than Barry O's still-got-no-plan-but-let's-pretend-otherwise. By the way, Ann's quoted above in the roundtable. Friday, she started her own site, Ann's Mega Dub.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, July 20, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, waves of violence claim the lives of at least 6 Iraqi police officers, the refugee crisis continues, tensions between the KRG and the centeral government in Baghdad mount, and more.

Starting with Iraqi refugees. Today the
International Committee of the Red Cross explains they "issued travel documents to 96 Palestinian refugees from Al-Waleed Camp (Anbar Governorate) to enable them to travel to Europe and the United States, where they will be resettled with the help of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International ORganization for Migration." Last week, Miriam Jordan (Wall St. Journal) reports that the US has agreed to take in 1,350 Palestinian refugees from Iraq --from among the over 3,000 refugees stuck in the 'camps' between Iraq and Syria. Jordan quoted University of California Hastings College of Law's professor George Bisharat stating, "These particular Palestinians are a fallout from the Iraq War. The Obama administration had to take some responsibility for the consequneces of the invasion." Patrik Jonsson (Christian Science Monitor -- link has text and video) had earlier reported that the refugees would "be resetteled in the US". However, Stephen Kaufman, writing at and for the US government at, doesn't say these refugees have been accepted, he states (on July 13th) that they "are being considered" for admittance to the US and sites the US State Dept as the source for that: "A State Department spokesman told July 13 that the resettlement process for the group actually began in 2008, and so far 24 Palestinians from Iraq have arrived in the United States."

While the refugees need to be offered asylum in the US, what sort of life awaits them? Not a good one if most reports are any indication.
Fields Moseley (Utah's KUTV) reports on Raida Jarjes and Taofiq Rasheed, husband and wife Iraqi refugees living in Utah after being granted asylum following many years of waiting in Syria. In Iraq, she was a journalist, he was an attorney but here in the US they are among "50 refugee families [who] might be in the homeless shelter next month." Moseley explains, "The Rasheeds are foreign professionals without jobs, a common story among Iraqi refugees. They were delivered to this apartment complex and told a job should be their first priority. They received $920 each from the state department and a couple hundred bucks follows each week. But it won't last." The State Coordinator for Refguee Resettlement, Gerald Brwon, tells Moseley, "We are not able to find people jobs at the rate we have to if they have to pay rent." Saundra Amrhein (St. Petersburg Times) reports on Hayder Abudlwahab and his family (Iman, his wife, and their two sons) who escaped Iraq, made it to Syria and finally were accepted into the US, settling in Tampa in August 2008. They left Iraq after Hayder was injured in a bombing and "awoke on a pile of bodies in a Baghdad morgue. [. . .] Paralyzed, blinded, unable to scream, Hayder lay in a jumble of bodies. Knobby bones poked him from underneath, a still-warm arm lay across his side. The smell of rot was overwhelming." Now they live in Tampa trying very hard to make ends meet and just to make rent each month. Earlier this month, Aamer Madhani (USA Today) explained there was a 3.1% increase this year in "no-shows" for Iraqi refugees granted asylum to the US who do not take make the "U.S. government-paid flights out of Iraq" and that "the reluctance is a reflection of the difficulties faced by thousands of Iraqis who have arrived in the U.S. since 2006." Not all Iraqi refugees are struggling to those extremes. Maureen Sieh (Syracuse Post-Standard) noted, In the last year, 130 Iraqi refugees have been settled in Syracuse by refugee programs run by Catholic Charities and Interfaith Works Center for New Americans." Most charity programs have dried up in the US due to the economy and/or disinterest. Mosques and churches are among the few that remain. What of the US government's obligation? Last week the Boston Globe offered the editorial
An obligation to refugees" which argued, "The United States should provide a haven for more refugees." Friday the International Organization for Migration announced the US State Dept had provided them $10 million "to meet the most urgent needs of Iraqi returnees." Returnees. Not refugees.

What are they doing for refugees? In it's most recent [PDF format warning]
report on Iraq, the US State Dept notes that "as many as 2 million Iraqi refugees" are being housed by "regional governments," an estimated 2.8 million are currently displaced within Iraq and then they offer a dollar figure . . . for Fiscal Year 2008. FY2008 ended months before Barack Obama was sworn in. Fiscal Year 2009, the current year, is nearly over. It ends at the end of September. March 20, 2009, much was made of the announcement of pledges by the US in excess of $141 million which was added to the stingy sum of $9 million that had already been 'committed.' Have those pledges been honored, has the money -- $90 million to UNHCR, $15.5 million to UNICEF, for example -- been paid out? Were the pledges honored? Yvonne Abraham (Boston Globe) pointed out another area of concern yesterday, "The federal government desperately needs Arabic speakers, particularly ones who know the Middle East. Hundreds of the Iraqis who worked with US forces are now here, and desperately need jobs. Yet nobody seems to have come up with a way to match our needs with theirs. Kirk Johnson, whose List Project brings Iraqis who helped American forces to the United States, said only a few have found work as government translators here. The rest are shut out because the security hurdles are too high, or because they're not citizens."

James Denselow (Guardian) explored "Iraq's forgotten crisis" and noting the interlocking nature of the conflicts (such as the KRG and the central government), the failed and failing infrastructure and the drought on issues including the external and internal refugees:

The consequences of the upstream damming of Iraq's rivers, when compounded with a general trend towards the reduction in rainfall entering the two river basins, is having a severe impact on the Iraqi breadbasket's ability to feed its population. The World Food Programme estimates that some 930,000 people are currently food-insecure in Iraq, with a further 6.4 million at risk of becoming food-insecure in the event of the failure of the Public Distribution System (PDS). Resettlement of internally displaced refugees and the potential return of the millions of Iraqis from Jordan and Syria all have the potential to place a further burden on this fragile system. Adam L Silverman, who worked as a social science adviser for the US army human terrain teams in 2008,
noted that lack of river discharge leads to "ongoing soil erosion that leads to further desertification and increased heat and dust storms, which has a measurable negative impact on the quality of life of the Iraqis". Reuters reported that the sandstorms that delayed Biden's trip led to several deaths and "hundreds of Iraqis seeking medical help after one of the worst sandstorms in living memory stretched beyond a week, choking throats, clogging eyes and afflicting asthma sufferers in particular".

"The Iraqi refugee crisis is far from over and recent violence is creating further displacement,"
notes Refugees International, "Iraqi women will resist returning home, even if conditions improve in Iraq, if there is no focus on securing their rights as women and assuring their personal security and their families' well being." Refugees International's latest report is [PDF format warning] entitled "IRAQI REFUGEES: WOMEN'S RIGHTS AND SECURITY CRITICAL TO RETURNS." It finds that not only are large scale returns not coming in the immediate future but that "[n]ot one woman interviewed by RI indicated her intention to return. Some women said they won't return because they are members of targeted minority groups, or because of injuries they suffered. . . . Some fear rising conservatism would restrict their ability to participate in civic and professional life. . . . Others feared they were at risk of so called 'honor killings' by family members because they refused marriages, had divorced, or were accused of prostitution." The field report found reoprts of forced marriages in Syria and the KRG. In Syria, "an Iraqi women working as a singer in a restaurant . . . was attacked by three men and raped. When she reported the crime to the police and asked for assistance, she was arrested, detained for six days, and threatened with deportation for working illegally. UNHCR finally obtained her release, but her assailants were never arrested." The report notes:

In northern Iraq, the KRG has taken some welcome steps to respond to the disturbingly high levels of reported gender-based violence (GBV), particularly so-called "honor killings," burnings and other attacks on women, often disguised as accidents or suicides. Recent higher GBV statistics in KRG may indicate a greater willingness to report such crimes, but further visible government support for women's rights is sorely need throughout Iraq.
The KRG, unlike the Government of Iraq, has supsended laws providing for "mitigating circumstances" to reduce the punishments for so-called "honor" crimes and has increased the penalties. Its Prime Minster set up a Cabinet-level Committee on Violence against Women and set up and staffed in each KRG governorate a "Directorate to Follw up Violence against Women." The offices conduct outreach and public education and investigate cases to turn over to the prosecutor. To protect women at risk of serious violence, the KRG and nongovernmental organizations operate small residential shelters. However, staff has little training or experience on security, confidentiality, or the counseling skills needed to assist clients. RI learned of recent incidents of women being trafficked from shelters.
The KRG could enhance these institutions' effectiveness and credibility by appointing experienced women to senior leadership posts in the Cabinet Committee and the Directorates, by regulating the shelters, and by ensuring shelter staff receive training and oversight. Donors should provide technical assistance through deploying specialist in investigations, witness protection, counseling, and helping to create standard operating procedures for temporary shelters. Donors should increase support to local NGOs experienced in GBV prevention and response services. Help is also needed in ensuring the wider distribution of public education materials in both Kurdish and Arabic, since higher levels of domestic violence are reported in the displaced population, which has not benefitted from any government outreach.

Moving to the Kurdistan region of Iraq. July 25th, they hold their provincial elections as well as elect a president.
Nada Bakri (Washington Post) notes the region is "simultaneously considered the most democratic in Iraq and not all that democratic. Two main parties -- [KRG President Masoud] Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, headed by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani -- have for years exercised a stranglehold on the region, dividing between them politics, patronage, investments and business deals." Pakistan's The National observes that a vote was also supposed to be held "to approve the new constitution, but a hurried intervention by the US vice president Joe Biden and warnings from Baghdad have persuaded Kurdish leaders to postpone that referendum. Kurdish anxiety is understandable. . . . The Kurds now appear to feel that the goodwill they displayed when they were strong brought few benefits." All weekend the tensions between the KRG and the centeral government in Baghdad continued to increase. Mehid Lebouachera (Kuwait Times) explained the roots of the tensions as follows: "Six years after the US-led invasion in which Kurdish rebel groups were key allies, their decades-old claims to historically Kurdish-inhabited areas remain unresolved by the new Iraqi government in which they hold both the presidency and a deputy premiership. And opposition to the Kurdish demands remains as strong as ever, not only among the Sunni Arab minority that dominated Saddam Hussein's ousted regime but also among the Shiite majority community that leads the new government and among ethnice minorities such as Turkemn. As time drags on, Kurdish leaders have voiced mounting frustration at the impasse in their talks with Baghdad, sparking an increasingly heated war of words with Arab politicians."

Lebouachera explains the tensions over unresolved borders. There are a number of disputed territories but let's zoom in on oil-rich Kirkuk. Nouri al-Maliki was installed by the US over three years ago. That's important. The 2005 Constitution, which went into effect in the final third of 2005 -- mere months before Nouri was installed -- promised an independent census of Kirkuk and a 2007 referendum. Nouri came to power and didn't get on that issue. Following the 2006 mid-term elections in the US, when both houses of Congress were handed over to Democrats (November, 2006), the White House, under pressure on the never-ending illegal war, began talking benchmarks for 'success.' The White House defined those benchmarks and Nouri signed off on them. The benchmarks included resolving the issue of Kirkuk. 2007. Two years later and still nothing.Not only throughout the illegal war, but also before it began, it was always known that Kirkuk was a divisive issue. (Hence the September 1998 White House meeting with Jalal Talabani, Kurd and current president of Iraq, and Masoud Barzani, Kurd and current president of the KRG; as well as the passage of in October 2002 of legislation by the Kurdish parliament preparing for the Iraq War.) Saddam Hussein ran Kurds out of the area and installed Arabs. The Kurds see Kirkuk as their land. The land is oil-rich and the Arabs aren't eager to hand it over to Kurdish control.So despite the fact that Nouri came into office mere months after the Constitution went into effect (calling for resolution of the Kirkuk issue) and despite the fact that, in 2007, he signed off on benchmarks which included resolving the Kirkuk issue, he's done nothing. There has been no referendum, there hasn't even been a census.Last summer, lands the Kurds consider their own were nearly invaded by Iraqi forces in what some saw as an attempted take over and others saw as a 'crackdown' or assault similar to what Nouri staged on Basra in March of last year. It was a very tense situation and war could have erupted right then. Unlike the Shi'ite - Sunni conflict which was more ethnic cleansing due to the fact that the Sunnis are not in power and do not have the numbers that the Shi'ites, the KRG has its own army, has its own forces and the tensions do not cease, if these issues aren't resolved, it's not unlikely that real civil war will break out in Iraq. A real one. Not ethnic cleansing being 'prettied up' with the phrase 'civil war.' Not a bunch of powerless minorities being killed and run out of the country, but a full on war.

But that doesn't seem to be a concern to the US installed government.
Jamal al-Badrani (Reuters) reports that, as nothing is done regarding disputed territories, Kurds in Nineveh Province have issued statements threatening to secede but that's apparently not cause for concern either. And all the statements being made by KRG officials? Apparently not a concern either. AFP reports that Massud Barzani, president of the KRG, stated yesterday, "We are committed to the application of Article 140 (of the Iraqi constitution) and we rpomise that we will absolutely not compromise on this issue or on the rights of the people of Kurdistan." Article 140 requires an independent census in Kirkuk and a referendum to take place no later than . . . December 2007. This is not a minor detail nor is it something once touched on and then forgotten. Saturday, the KRG's Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani gave a speech and it included the following:In formulating policy for our government, we have always been committed to the Iraqi Constitution and protection of the interests of the Kurdistan Region and all of Iraq.As you are all aware, recent tensions have occasionally surfaced with the federal, central government over pending issues. It is clear that, as long as those issues remain unresolved; this will threaten the stability that we all aspire to achieve in Iraq. I would like to address this matter openly. What we in the Kurdistan Regional Government want to achieve is to resolve these issues peacefully and in accordance with the terms and conditions enshrined in the Iraqi Constitution, for which 80% of Iraqis voted. We have always been ready in the past, and we are ready and willing now to sit at the negotiating table with the federal government and talk with those who possess the will to solve these issues. Sometimes we in the Kurdistan Region are accused of being too firm and insistent in our demands. But I would like Iraqis and the whole world to be aware of two things: First, our insistence on the commitment to the Constitution and its guarantees for freedom and democracy emerge directly from our history. We in the Kurdistan Region have suffered greatly as the result of agreements which were unfulfilled and promises which were ignored. In order for us to live in peace and stability, we want our rights to be protected. This will take place as a result of permanent agreements by which all concerned will abide, in accordance with Constitutional principles. We don't have any hidden agenda in Iraq.Second, for those who say that we cannot negotiate seriously, there are tangible examples of how the KRG has participated seriously in negotiations that have led to historic results. Therefore, we can engage in a similar manner with Baghdad in this regard.We want to be a reliable and cooperative partner with the federal government. Our vision of security, stability and prosperity for the Kurdistan Region requires a peaceful and cooperative relationship and coordination with all of Iraq and with Baghdad and we will continue with this policy in the Kurdistan Region. All that we ask for is to have a relationship within the framework of the Constitution, which is the highest law of the land and the greatest guarantee to us that history will not repeat itself. Our message is clear. The Kurdistan Regional Government is ready and hopeful that serious dialogue will resume with the federal government to solve the issues according to Constitutional principles and within a federal, democratic Iraq.Our insistence on resolving the issues are with the aim of guaranteeing a bright future for our people and the prevention of any repetition of our tragic history.

Meanwhile, do-nothing Nouri is headed to the US.
Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports Nouri, who has been making disparging remarks about US service members lately, intends to visit Arlington Cementary while visiting the White House. Reportedly he plans to pay his 'respects' -- non-existant ones to judge by his recent remarks. She quotes Nouri al-Maliki's boy-toy Sami Askari declaring, ""The Democrats were in opposition to George Bush so they tended not to see his positive points, only to concentrate on the negative ones. So I think the prime minister needs to say this: That as a people, we are not ignoring what others did for us. Every Iraqi who goes to Washington needs to make clear that the war was not a failure." Save the fantasy talk for Nouri, Askari. Nouri made quite clear to Barack last summer what he thought of Bully Boy Bush. The idea that after running Bush down (no problem with that here), Nouri's now going to counsel Barack on the 'good' in George W.'s efforts is laughable. What's not being reported are rumors that Biden has scheduled a high-level meeting with Nouri and former Ba'athists for this visit. Those are rumors. When Biden visited Iraq, Nouri remainded non-committal to the idea and indicated he would weigh a meet up with Ba'athists and Arab neighbors. Shortly after Biden departed Iraq, Nouri began issuing fiery statements indicating otherwise. Nouri's personal press representative Mike Tharp of McClatchy Newspapers and Nouri's Ass raves like he's audtioning for Pat Newcomb: The Movie, insisting -- in a non-journalistic manner -- that Nouri is "the popular leader of an American ally, the prime minister of an increasingly independent-minded country". When Mike gets the taste of Nouri's ass washed out of his mouth, someone inform him that Nouri's a thug and a US installed puppet currently testing the length and tethering of his leash.

If Tharp's behavior seems shocking, you must have missed this weekend when he made like Eric Carmen serenading Nouri with "All By Myself" ("Don't wanna bee all by myself . . .") as
he insisted that the Iraqi forces, all by themselves, protected the pilgrims -- all by themselves! Like the Nouri publicist he's become, he was gushing about "their first big test" and how they "passed" "with flying colors"! and all by themselves . . . He quoted Iraqi military spokesmodel Qaasim Atta stating, "This is the first 100 percent Iraqi security plan to protec the pilgrims. The forces are Iraqis, even the helicopters above." Problem was Mohammed al Dulaimy already reported that US helicopters -- two of them -- were hovering over Baghdad. So Tharp buried that reality in the thirteenth paragraph of his eighteen paragraph p.r. copy. From Thursday through Saturday, Tharp babbled, no deaths and Iraqi security forces did it all by themselves! If you leave out the two helicopters. And if you leave out what Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) reported, "Cameras on air balloons monitored the site, the surveillance provided by the U.S. military at Iraq's request." Leave that out too in order to sing "All By Myself." Leave out the fact that AP reported Saturday of the pilgrimage, "The event was a relative success, despite bombings that killed several people and injured dozens." Leave out that Alsumaria reported on Saturday's pilgrimage: "One citizen was killed and tens pilgrims were wounded as they were heading to Imam Moussa Al Kazem shrine (AS) due to roadside bomb explosions in Zaafaraniya, New Baghdad, Al Saydiya and Al Dora region." But no deaths and Iraqi forces did it all by themselves. Think we're going to need some louder voices on the chorus in order to drown out realities such as the fact that the US forces, stepping away from Iraq cities, have been doing more work along the route of the pilgrims. Baghdad's the destination. But the pilgrims don't fly in to Baghad International, step onto the tarmac and rush to the shrine. That's not how it works. But if you're stupid enough, if you're as stupid as the press hopes you are, you will be grinning and swearing, "Mission accomplished!"

Here on planet earth, we gasp at the billions of Iraqi dollars Nouri sits on while people the starve.
Aljazeera explains, "Abject poverty across Iraq is fuelling an illegal trade in human organs. Hundreds of people are believed to have sold kidneys and other organs through dealers in the capital, Baghdad, over the last year. . . . About 23 per cent of Iraqis live in poverty, meaning that they are forced to survive on $2.2 a day or less, according to government figures." Let's drop back to the July 14th snapshot:And the river dries up as Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the poverty, "Beggars have become as visible as blast walls and checkpoints in Iraqi cities. Government ministries don't have reliable statistics, partly because those who beg fear official crackdowns on their only livelihood. It's a problem the government has yet to tackle." This happens as the Oil Ministry brags it has "acheived (59.1000) million barrels with (3.378) billion dollars incomes with daily average of (4.400) barrels per day for May and the raise was (686) million dollars. In comparison with April which achieved (54.700) million barrels with (2.692) billion dollars incomes."
We probably shouldn't begrudge Nouri having Mike Tharp as his p.r. agent -- clearly Nouri needs all the spin control he can get.

Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News) reports that tensions are escalating between the Iraqi military and the US military over their roles. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) adds that this revolves around the security agreements (primarily the treaty masquerading as a SOFA), "The conflicting interpretations of the security agrement, U.S. officials said, have led to numerous standoffs on the ground, including cases in which Iraqi soldiers have prevented American convoys from passing through checkpoints." Help us out, US forces are still in Iraq why? It's not to protect Iraqi women, it's not to protect Iraqi Christians, it's not to protect Iraq's LGBT community, so why are they still there? To be sitting ducks? Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) offers two more examples of the unraveling of Iraq today -- here for first one, here for second.

Friday a helicopter crashed in Iraq.
CNN reported it was an "Xe" (Blackwater) helicopter and that two employees died and another two were wounded. Yesterday afternoon, the US State Dept issued the following statement:

The Department of State is deeply saddened by the deaths of two employees of Xe Consulting during a helicopter crash in Iraq on July 17 and extends our heartfelt sympathies to their families. Our thoughts are also with the two men who were injured in this incident and their families. These men played an important role in assisting the Department in protecting American diplomats and missions in Iraq. The Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security is coordinating with appropriate U.S. and Iraqi officials regarding an investigation into the cause of the crash.

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


Reuters reports a Baghdad car bombing which left four people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing which injured a police officer and a bystander, a Mosul bombing which injured a police officer, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi police officer, a Ramadi car bombing which claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi police officers, left one injured as well as three bystanders and a Baghdad roadside bombing which left nine people injured. Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured Capt Humadi Othman (of Facilities Protection Services) and one other person.


Reuters reports 1 police officer shot dead in central Mosul, 1 police officer shot dead in southwest Mosul, 1 police officer shot dead in east Mosul and 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in southeast Mosul.

Sunday the
US military announced: "AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq – A Multi National Force – West Marine was killed in a combat-related incident as a result of enemy action here July 19. The Marine's name is being withheld pending next-of-kin notification and release through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at" The announcement brought to 4327 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

This week in the United States, an event's being held. This is Michael Cole's "
DC Event: Help LGBT Iraqi Refugees" (HRC):
If you're in the DC area I encourage you to join the Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Watch and the National LGBT Bar Association for a unique event in Washington, D.C. to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Iraqis who have fled their home country.
On Friday, July 24, spokesmen for a group of twenty LGBT Iraqi refugees undergoing their resettlement process will be in Washington, D.C. to bring attention to their struggle and raise money to support LGBT Iraqi refugees still in the Middle East.
Since the U.S. invasion, sectarian violence and fundamentalist religious leaders have filled a power vacuum left by the war that has made life for LGBT Iraqis increasingly unbearable. In recent months, international media have reported that LGBT Iraqis face kidnapping, torture, horrific sexual violence, death threats and murder.
Start your weekend off with a reception that may save lives. All proceeds from the fundraiser go to support
Helem, a Lebanese LGBT organization that has provided food, shelter and clothing to LGBT Iraqi refugees currently undergoing their resettlement process.
What: Fundraiser to Support LGBT Iraqi Refugees When: Friday, July 24, 2009 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Where: Human Rights Campaign Equality Center 1640 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20036, (at the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue and 17th Street) Cost: Please bring your checkbook or credit card and donate as you can.
For questions or more information, please contact Eric Wingerter at

Also in the US,
Walter Cronkite passed away Friday at the age of 92. The former anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News was remembered today on CBS News' online web program Washington Unplugged. Sharing their memories and evaluations were CBS News' Bob Schieffer, who hosts the program, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post and Marvin Kalb who worked for CBS News and NBC News (and earned the honor of making Tricky Dick's enemies list). CBS News honored Cronkite last night in prime time with a special and you can find it online at CBS' website (text and video). At her website, under news videos, Carly Simon has taped the following message (currently plays after beauty tips for looking older -- a humorous video; good morning and work on mixing her forthcoming album due out later this year):

My sister Joey [opera singer Joanna Simon] and Walter Cronkite were very much in love and spent pretty much the last four years of his life together. Joey took care of him night and day when he was sick. And Walter loved her and she loved him and she will always love him -- as we all will. He never said anything that wasn't absolutely real. He was an impeccable human being and this message is for everybody who loved him and will continue to.

Peter Simon tells K.C. Myers (Cape Cod Times), "They were an adorable couple. To see them together, it was so moving. They were so in love with each other. Now she's going through a terrible loss." Kate Nocera and Erin Durkin (New York Daily News) quote Joanna Simon stating, "He loved to sail. Sometimes we would take day sails. Other times, we would go to Nantucket or Newport. One time we sailed up the coast of Maine. [. . . .] My entire life with Walter gave me such great joy. Now, without him, I'm kind of at a loss as to what to do with the rest of my life. I go through waves. Sometiimes I'm okay. Sometimes I just want to turn the clock back." In 1962, with the New York City Opera, Joanna Simon made her debut in The Marriage of Fiagaro. It was the start of a highly accomplished and praised career. Walter Cronkite is survived by his three children Chip Cronkite, Kathy Cronkite and Nancy Cronkite and by his four grandchildren John Macintosh Cronkite-Ikard, Peter Cronkite, William Maxwell Cronkite-Ikard and Walter Cronkite IV.

the wall street journalmiriam jordan
the washington postnada bakri
ernesto londono
thomas e. rickscnn
the nationalmehdi lebouacherathe kuwait timesgabriel gathehousebbc newsthe los angeles timesliz sly
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