Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Movie Pass

I had an e-mail asking about Blockbuster Video.

They did announce their plan. It's called "Movie Pass." You can stream and get DVDs in the mail.


You have to be a Dish TV subscriber.

That's expected to change in the new year (most are saying by February). If it does "Movie Pass" will be available to all.

It could be right now.

If you have Dish TV -- I don't -- you can enter your code and stream on your laptop or PC right now. So they could offer it to non-subscribers.

So for now I'm still Netflix. I want to leave; however. Maybe I'll just ignore streaming. I've thought about Hulu. But they need to add more movies.

So I remain in limbo.

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the Congress hears about more money wasted in the wars (trillions that will be wasted -- trillions), a protest of faith leaders against the war takes place in Los Angeles this Friday and they plan to be arrested, Iraq agrees to 'trainers,' US Senator Patty Murray tackles the issue of long wait time for veterans when they attempt to seek help with mental health issues, and more.
Last Thursday on KPFK's The Lawyer's Guild with Jim Lafferty (7:00 p.m. PST every Thursday; 55 days left in the KPFK archives), Jim spoke with Shakeel Syad about an upcoming action:
Jim Lafferty: And now we're going to turn our attention to activists around the question of the war. We're coming up now to the 10th anniversary of course of the war in Afghanistan and there's a war in Iraq and a war in Pakistan and what have you. And there's a wonderful group in town, the Interfaith Clergy United for Justice and Peace. They've been active in the anti-war movement and social justice movement for some time now. And they are going to hold an action on the 10th anniversary of the war, that's next Friday October 7th, which will include both peaceful and legal protest and a parade and speeches and what have you. But they're also putting into it a feature of civil disobedience and joining us on the air to explain all that my guest is Shakeel Syed. He is the executive director of the Shura Council Mosques of Southern California, that's simply a coalition of the mosques here in southern California. Mr. Syed is one of this nation's really, really great true religious leaders and activists for for peace and social justice and especially I think for religious tolerance. Shakeel Syed, welcome back to the Lawyers Guild Show.
Shakeel Syed: Thanks for inviting me, Jim.
Jim Lafferty: As always. No, no, it's my pleasure. So next Friday, you and as many as a dozen of other members of Clergy United for Justice and Peace and some others who may not be clergy members but are part of that religious community are prepared to get arrested in protest of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why?
Shakeel Syed: Gosh, I think this is an imperative for people of conscience to remind ourselves and our fellow citizens that for ten consecutive years we have been killing innocent people and getting our young men and women killed while destroying our treasure, whatever little is left, and having people like Rose [Gudiel whose story was covered in the first segment of the show] get evicted and so it is time that people should rise up. We are only 24 or 25 people who will be doing this civil disobedience on October 7th in downtown LA but I hope and pray that there would be a mass uprising throughout the country in fact to remind the country, remind the nation, remind our political leaders that we are not going to forget the misadventures of our state.
Jim Lafferty: Yeah, I would hope so to. And I want to be clear that while there are this couple of dozen folks who are going to be peacefully and nonviolently of course getting arrested, they hope that hundreds and hundreds of others will join them. And we're going to tell you about that in a moment, friends. To simply show support and to join a peaceful, legal protest which is part of this day of action as well. Now the costs of the war? I'm hoping and I suspect that I don't have to worry about it, that's certainly going to happen, is that part of the focus that you folks are going to be doing next Friday is going to include the fact that at a time when we're now up to 3 trillion dollars of costs that we are already paying or committed to in Afgahnistan and Iraq, we're pretty clearly in a biapartisan way to deal some blows to Social Security and Medicare -- to say nothing of the unemployment problem and the housing problem. So I assume those domestic costs of the war are going to be part of what moves the conscience of you folks too. Am I right?
Shakeel Syed: I hope and pray that, yes indeed. The costs certainly is a major, major factor only because now we are feeling it. Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace has been preaching this to our elected leadership for that past ten years, that it is going to be -- to become an economic crisis in our country, for the past ten years. Now that the country's waking up to this fact of how we are into such a deep, deep hole that we don't know how to get out of it. So certainly it will be highlighted and reminded that if those trillions of dollars were to have been available to the country today that joblessness that exists -- 18%, one of the highest in the country, in LA county -- probably would have not been the case today. So certainly the moral aspect of it, the economical aspect of it and most importantly it is time for us to revist the idea and notion that our country has now become immune to simply killing people in different parts of the world on a sustained basis. That paradigm has got to change.
Jim Lafferty: Yeah. Yeah, we're in a state of permanent war. It's quite amazing. At last count, I think there were 193 or 194 nations recognized by the United Nations as nations and the United States government -- if I'm wrong here, I'm not wrong in principle, I'm just wrong on the actual numbers -- we're in something like 150 or 170 of those, I can't remember which now, by that I mean that we have US military forces operating in one way or another in 85% of the nations on this earth. And we're waging active war, full-fledged war in several countries, we're certainly still bombing Libya and we're engaged in Black Ops operations with our military forces trying to overthrow governments and destabilize governments in most of the rest of the world. Shakeel, I count and I know surely you do among the costs of Afghanistan and Iraq what's happened to your and my Muslim brothers and sisters in this country. I mean, talk to us a little bit about the costs that your community has paid as a result of this.
Shakeel Syed: Yeah, I think there are two major costs or two broad areas that the Muslim and Arab community has paid very dearly and that continues to pay today. One is the demonization of the faith itself -- of the entire 1.4 billion people, a 1500-year-old faith group. Number two is the dehumanization of Muslims. Muslims have become a Fifth Column in our country just as Japanese people were looked at after the Second World War. On a daily basis, you see all sorts of Islamaphobic acts of hate and bigotry throughout the country including, in southern California, the burning of Korans and hate mails and hate messages. I just received a little over 100 e-mails, after the UCI 11 verdict, at the Shura Council office challenging the statements that we have given in the context of freedom of speech. So there is an ongoing demonization and dehumanization of Muslim Americans and their faith in this country which is very, very unfortunate. But thank God that there are also good people in America, many good people, such as the community here, the Interfaith Community of Justice and Peace for the past ten sustained years who have been a voice of conscience, the true voice of America which embraces people of all faiths and of no faith, all ethnicities, all colors and languages for the greater good of the society at large.
Jim Lafferty: Yeah, you've had to deal with and are still dealing with FBI infiltration into the mosques, infiltrators from the FBI inserting themselves into mosques, trying to stir up trouble, trying to -- really more than entrap, trying to encourage somebody in some cases to do something which is illegal despite the fact that all sane people know that the mosques in this country are not hot beds of Islamic radicalism or anything like it. You've been very clear in speaking out against that. Is that problem getting any better, do you think, or not?
Shakeel Syed: Not really. It is only getting worse. If not in LA, we heard all that has happened recently in New York, for example, where the CIA and local police department have been mapping the Muslims and mapping the mosques and God knows what else. And this continues to happen on a regular basis in a variety of ways. FBI, whom we pay our tax dollars to supposedly protect us, are training their own officers -- mistraining, rather -- in fostering and formenting hate and bigotry against Mulim Americans, law abiding, lawful and peaceful Muslim Americans. So there is all sorts of -- It has become a new normal.
So much money has been wasted on the wars. In the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing this morning, US House Rep Edolphus Towns was rightly decrying a contractor charging the US government $900 for a control switch that retailed for $7. That's a mark up of $893 for just one control switch. The Committee was hearing from the waste of time Commission. Over the weekend, Nathan Hodge (Wall St. Journal) reported on the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, "The internal records of a congressionally mandated panel that reported staggering estimates of wasteful U.S. wartime spending will remain sealed to the public until 2031, officials confirmed, as the panel closed its doors on Friday." They've finished their study and they've closed their books. And, if you were at the hearing today, you learned just how wrong that is as Co-Chair Shays waived around the Commission's published findings and declared, "Our problem with Mr. Tieffer was that this book would have been three times as thick if we'd let him put in everything he wanted to put in so we limited him to 40 cases. But it could have been many more."
Great, so US tax payer money went down the drain again. The Commission unearthed tons of things but decided just to publish 40 of them. Because they didn't want their book to be too thick.
Right. We covered the Commission's public hearings. It was always a waste of time which describe the Commission itself and those members of Congress that pushed for it. The only value the Commission could have had was in making public its records now while the wars continue in the hopes that contract waste and abuse could be caught and some money saved. However, that's not going to happen with the Commisson's records being sealed and the published report only focusing on a small number of cases of fraud and abuse. As noted before, the Commission's purpose was never to find fraud and abuse. The purpose was to distract outraged Americans from what was being done with their money. The Commission had no powers. No charges have been filed over fraud. The Commission has wrapped up their business. Today they made a guest starring appearence before a Congressional committee. Excerpt.
US House Rep Jason Cahffetz: One of the questions that I hope our Committee continues to explore is what in the world is wrong over at the Dept of Defense? I want to read here from -- This is page 162 and this has to do with the Defense Contracting Audit Agency -- which seems aptly named. But it says, "The current unaudited" -- and you mentioned this in your opening statement -- "The current unaudited backlog stands at $558 billion having risen sharply from $406 billion in only 9 months. At current staffing levels, DCAA has reported that the backlog will continue to grow virtually unchecked and will exceed one trillion dollars by 2016."
Commisoner Dov Zakheim: Can I, uh, try to deal with that?
US House Rep Jason Chaffetz: Yes, please. Try to tackle that one. That would be great.
Commissioner Dov Zakheim: Absolutely. When I was Under Secretary of Defense, Comptroller DCAA was under me. DCAA simply doesn't have enough people. It is --
US House Rep Jason Chaffetz: How many people are there?
Commisoner Dov Zakheim: When I was there it was about 4,000. They've added about another thousand. It's nothing compared to the level of contracting that's going on and to the number of contracts that are going on. These are very, very professional folks. Most of them now have CPAs. Many of them come from the outside and then come into government, much as lawyers do now a days. But we just don't have enough of them. This goes to the point that was made earliler by Commissioner [Robert] Henke and some of my other colleagues, and we all believe this very strongly, that even in this time of cutting budgets and deficits, there has to be some spending to save money. And it's a matter of being penny wise and pound foolish. If we don't get these people in, we're going to end up hurting both the government and industry. The government because there might be money that could be recovered and industry because they're not getting paid when they should get paid. If the audit isn't completed, they have a problem too.
Co-Chair Christopher Shays: Could I just -- I'm going to change the word "might" to "will." Because it is just a proven fact that if you have these audits, you are going to discover bills that were submitted that were either fraudulently submitted or frankly just mistakes and they were paid more than they should be paid. The outrage is that all these companies have to keep these records on file for two, three, four, five, six, seven years and guess who pays for their having to do this? The government pays for their keeping the records. So this five hundred billion -- million we're talking ab -- excuse me, 500 billion that we're talking about -- million is going to just accelrate if you don't reverse it.
US House Rep Jason Chaffetz: I guess, to my colleagues, what I would highlight here is also that the GAO just recently released a report in September 2011 documenting that there are at least 58,000 contracts awarded between Fiscal Year 2003 and 2010 that must still be reviewed and closed out. But I agree with you, the numbers are absolutely staggering. I would call upon the White House: "Please, prioritize these IGs, get them nominated and get the Senate over there to do their jobs so that --" We have 3 of the 5 that are unfilled and that's just inexcusable in my opinion.
At a time when the 'Super Congress' is going to fix the economy by cutting and gutting the safety net, it's rather telling how much money the White House is willing to waste on the continued wars. Iraq specifically came up in the hearing at several times. We'll note this section because it's not really registered in a Congressional hearing before.
US House Rep James Lankford: Let me make one other quick comment here, you have an extension section here on foreign contractors using human trafficking. Obviously that's -- That's a very stark comment. Some of the work that's happening in Iraq and Afghanistan is basically done with slave labor -- people compelled to work in this for whatever amount is done. How extensive do you think that is?
Commissioner Dov Zakheim: What we understand is that it's really quite extensive. Because what they do is they bring people in, uh, hold onto their passports and essentially lock them up as prisoners. It's virtually slave labor.
US House Rep James Lankford: And we're aware of that? The United States government, the people on the ground, we're aware of that either after the fact when it's over or during the process?
Commissioner Dov Zakheim: Okay, at a minimum, everybody's aware of it after our report and, of course, a lot of people were aware of it before our report.
If they'd had more time, Shays declared, they would have gone deeper into the contracting issue because "I think there is a lot more to this story than any of us have confronted."
Before we go further, let's note two other antiwar actions this month. Cindy Sheehan speaks tomorrow, October 5th, 7 p.m., at the First United Church in Bloomington. That's tomorrow. The LA action is Thursday. And there's also an event Saturday. This is Angela Keaton's write up for Antiwar.com:
Kelley B. Vlahos along with military veterans Daniel Lakemacher and Students for Liberty's Peter Neiger will be appearing at an Antiwar Break Out Session at the 2011 Students for Liberty Philadelphia Regional Conference. The conference will be held Saturday, October 8th. Register here.
Vlahos is a contributing editor for The American Conservative magazine, a Washington correspondent for the DC-based homeland security magazine, Homeland Security Today, a long-time political writer for FOXNews.com, and weekly columnist for Antiwar.com.
So those are events. Now we'll wrap up with Congress before moving on to Iraq. Iraq War veteran John DiRaimo described his struggle with PTSD to G. Wayne Miller (Providence Journal -- link is text and video) who explained, "His nightmares continued and sometimes, in his bedroom in the middle of the night, he saw the apparition of a young Iraqi girl who may have been tortured and killed by Saddam Hussein's forces, her mutilated body buried in a distant part of what became the U.S. camp at Ar Ramadi, where DiRaimo was based. Awake, he cycled through periods of anxiety, anger and depression. His engagement to Susan Storti had ended, the strain of his PTSD having proved destructive, but they remained close friends." He says, "I just couldn't take it. The nightmares were too strong, too vivid. I was getting no sleep. I was just totally burnt out, and I just felt that life wasn't worth it anymore." Park Ranger Christian Zawojski (Baltimore Sun) advocates for more spending on mental health care for veterans and shares, "I recently had the misfortune of seeing a veteran of the war in Afghanistan walk to the site of his suicide. He passed by me early in the afternoon in a Maryland state park where I was working, and I didn't realize until I saw his lifeless body later that day that I had seen him earlier. His wife told me that he was a veteran, that he suffered from PTSD and other mental illnesses, and that he had talked with her about taking his life. He chose a tranquil spot in the park, where water laps against the shore and a breeze always seems to blow. In doing so, he may have been seeking some respite from the trauma he had suffered. He left behind a wife and a baby."
(Washington, D.C.) -- U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, has sent a letter to the top health official at the Department of Veterans Affairs calling for improvements in mental health care delivery after a survey conducted by the VA at her request showed that many VA mental health care providers across the country don't feel they have the resources needed to provide timely mental health care to veterans. The survey*, prepared at a time when 18 veterans a day are taking their own lives, shows that of the VA providers surveyed, nearly 40 percent said they cannot schedule an appointment in their own clinic within the VA mandated 14 day window, 70 percent said they did not have adequate staff or space to meet the mental health care needs of the veterans they serve, and 46 percent said the lack of off-hour appointments prevented veterans from accessing care.
"The sad truth is that veterans who call to get a VA appointment have at least made the decision to reach out to VA for help," Murray wrote. "That is the critical step in
accessing care, and it is not acceptable to have veterans, who have stepped up and shown the courage to ask for help, be denied that care."
Senator Murray requested the survey during a hearing of her Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs this summer that examined gaps in the VA's mental health service efforts. At that hearing, Daniel Williams, a veteran, and Andrea Sawyer, a caregiver for her husband Loyd Sawyer, testified that they waited months to get follow-up appointments.
*For more information on the VA survey please contact Senator Murray's press office at the number listed above.

The full text of Senator Murray's letter is below:

October 3, 2011

The Honorable Robert A. Petzel, MD

Under Secretary for Health

Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20420

Dear Dr. Petzel:

Under your leadership, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made strides in improving mental health care for veterans. In addition to implementing the Veterans' Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act of 2008, VA has written state-of-the-art policies, begun integrating mental health in primary care, and created groundbreaking new programs, such as the suicide hotline. VA has improved staffing guidelines, created new outreach programs and anti-stigma efforts, and required extended hours at some of its mental health clinics. The Department also continues to seek improvements, such as the ongoing effort to create joint clinical practice guidelines for the provision of mental health care from both VA and the Department of Defense.

However, much more remains to be done. At a Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing this summer reviewing the Department's mental health services, Daniel Williams, a veteran, and Andrea Sawyer, a caregiver for her husband Loyd Sawyer, testified that they waited months to get follow-up appointments. They are not the only ones, however. Data provided by the Department on wait times for mental health appointments show unacceptably long delays in accessing care. For example, at the Spokane medical center in my home state of Washington, the average wait time for a psychiatry appointment is almost 21 days, with barely more than half of such appointments meeting the 14 day standard, or at the Walla Walla clinic where less than half of mental health appointments are made according to the standard.

Almost three years after VA adopted the Uniform Mental Health Services Handbook, I continue to hear from veterans, their caregivers and health care providers that it has not been fully implemented. To understand the disconnect between VA policy and practice, I asked the Department to survey its mental health care providers across the country. VA asked them what they thought about access, and the results were very troubling.

VA received responses from 272 mental health providers within five Veterans Integrated Service Networks. Of these providers, nearly 40 percent said they cannot schedule an appointment in their own clinic for a new patient within 14 days. Seventy percent said they did not have adequate staff or space to meet the mental health care needs of the veterans they serve, and 46 percent said the lack of off-hour appointments prevented veterans from accessing care. In addition, over 26 percent of VA mental health providers said the need to perform compensation and pension examinations pulled them away from patient care.
More troubling, however, is the apparent lack of a plan of action to address the issues these data illustrate. Particularly in the Department's written submission, the action items listed are almost entirely devoid of specific concrete steps which will be taken. I am pleased that the Department is moving to a more robust and comprehensive measure of access to mental health care and will make this metric a component of VISN directors' performance contracts, though I question why this was not done earlier. I remain very concerned that the Department is going to delay other action for more than a year in order to conduct focus groups. While I understand the Department has concerns that this survey is not comprehensive, after the countless Inspector General reports, GAO reports, hearings, public laws, conferences, and stories from veterans and clinicians in the field, it is time to act.
The sad truth is that veterans who call to get a VA appointment have at least made the decision to reach out to VA for help. That is the critical step in accessing care, and it is not acceptable to have veterans, who have stepped up and shown the courage to ask for help, be denied that care. Additionally, there are many veterans who, because of their mental illness, are unwilling or unable to navigate the VA system to get the help they need. Many who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may develop severe symptoms a year or more after they return home. VA must find a way to reach out to those veterans, and not wait for them to contact VA.
Dr. Petzel, I know that you and your leadership team are working hard to improve the delivery of health care to veterans, but the results of this survey and the mental health wait times data demonstrate there is much more that needs to be done. I would like to know if you feel the Department has everything it needs, including sufficient resources and appropriate statutory authorities, to make the needed improvements.
Thank you for all you are doing and I look forward to working with you to support our nation's veterans.

Patty Murray


Matt McAlvanah

Communications Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

202-224-2834 - press office

202--224-0228 - direct


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Al Mada reports on a new Gallup poll which finds more Iraqis are saying their economy is getting worse. In 2010, 20% said the economy was getting worse. Now it has risen to 37%. And this after the Iraqi government's highly publicized check to Lockheed Martin for $1.5 billion (a down payment on F-16s). In addition, two-thirds of Iraqis say that it is a bad time to find employment. Al Sabaah insists that the interests of the people is dependent upon the political blocs. The country is currently in Political Stalemate II which has already lasted longer than Political Stalemate I. Today the political blocs were to meet up at Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's home in an attempt to end the stalemate and Al Mada notes that there is hope the "crisis" (their term) would be resolved in the meet-up due to start at 6:00 pm (Iraq time).
It must not have been much of a meeting. Aswat al Iraq reports, "Premier Nouri al-Maliki left the meeting of the political entitities held today after the withdrawal of Iraqiya leader Iyad Alawi and vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi." After the meet-up, Aswat al-Iraq notes, a press conference was quickly held. MP Ziad al-Dharib announced that "we reject the stay of U.S. forces at any form." Prashant Rao (AFP) reports that the leaders also issued a statement declaring "no need" for US forces remaining in Iraq beyond December 31, 2011 to receive immunity. The statement declares that they are in agreement "on the need to train Iraqi forces." What does this mean? That the leaders -- even Sadr? -- have agreed to keep US forces in Iraq beyond the end of the year as "trainers." And as "trainers," the Iraqi political blocs are not going to grant immunity. The US Embassy is said to be reviewing the statement the blocs issued.
Does that mean Nouri himself will? It may. If Nouri has the power to bring in trainers, then he has the power to grant them immunity. The two would go hand in hand. It's already been stated that "trainers" would remain in Iraq under the Strategic Framework Agreement -- allowing everyone to avoid negotiating a new agreement. The Strategic Framework Agreement -- pushed through at the same time as the Status Of Forces Agreement -- is a short document about how the two countries -- Iraq and the US will aid and assist one another. In terms of security, there are two statements under Section One which would apply:
2. A strong Iraq capable of self-defense is essential for achieving stability in the region.
3. The temporary presence of U.S. forces in Iraq is at the request and invitation of the sovereign Government of Iraq and with full respect for the sovereignty of Iraq.
This is not a specific document. It is a document that the Parliament signed off on. Reading over it (PDF format warning, here) quickly, you'll notice that the duties are prime minister duties on the Iraqi side. Therefore, a strong case can be made that not only does Nouri have that power implicitly (by being the one who decides whether or not "trainers" are needed -- which all parties have said was his decision as the commander of the military) but with Parliament passing the Strategic Forces Agreement they gave Nouri the power to carry it out -- which would, again, mean he can grant immunity all by himself. That's an interpretation. It's not established. There's been nothing to establish it. The power has to be interpreted, I would argue, because it's never existed prior. If Nouri chooses to make this argument and Parliament objects, the matter would go to the Courts which are in Nouri's pockets. Translation, if Parliament wants to seriously object, the only serious objection is a vote of no-confidence. Empty words or a harsh measure passed to object won't change a thing if Nouri goes with the interpretation that he has the power to grant immunity. (If he believes that and the US government goes for it, they'll want Nouri to sign a memo granting the immunity.)
CNN notes, "Iraqi political leaders have agreed that granting U.S. trainers legal immunity would be unnecessary, [Nouri's spokesperson Ali] al-Dabbagh said Tuesday. 'In addition to that, the training mission must be conducted on Iraqi installations only, and the training must be carried out in away to ensure that the Iraqi armed forces will be a professional army' and operate under the Iraqi Constitution." Were there to be no immunity, US Vice President Joe Biden has stated in the past that that the US military would not stay.
Ali al-Dabbagh is one of the few officially allowed to speak for the government per Nouri. The only thing his comment changes is he notes the Iraqi Constitution. That's the document that gives Nouri (as prime minister) power over the military. It's interesting that al-Dabbagh notes that and it's a shame CNN didn't provide his full quote. Reuters lives in their own little world. I really don't grasp their interpretation. It's not a legal one. It's not one that's based on what's said today. It's not based on what's been reported in the Arabic media or what Nouri and others have been quoted as saying in the Arabic media. It's the sort of fantasy football reporting Reuters and others did when the Status Of Forces Agreement passed the Iraqi Parliament (and the White House then released a copy of it) in November 2008 and history has demonstrated how wrong they and others were on that. You could argue they went a cowardly way and I can see that. But in doing so they create things that just aren't there.
At this point, the best guess is that US forces are staying in Iraq beyond the end of the year. That is what Nouri told the press last week -- though no US outlet wanted to report it, did they? (We covered it in Thursday's snapshot and in Friday's snapshot.) And it's what Jalal Talabani has stated as well. (That was covered in yesterday's snapshot.) Al Mada is reporting that the "trainers" were agreed to in the meeting. They quote the statement issued by Talabani which includes that "the leaders came to agreement on the need for Iraqi forces to be trained and for this to be completted as soon as possible and on the need to support the Iraqi government with regards to this training. The leaders agreed it was not necessary to grant immunity [to the 'trainers']. It was also agreed that proposed (or needed) training is to be conducted on Iraqi installations and that the training will be increase the professionalism of the Iraqi armed forces." (Talabani's spokesperson also denies that Allawi or anyone left early. However, Al Mada reports that Allawi did leave and that he left because the Erbil Agreement was taken off the table and the meeting was devoted solely to the issue of US forces remaining in Iraq past 2011.)
On this issue, the meeting concluded with a formula that apparently gives Maliki what he wants: There will be instructors but they will enjoy no special legal immunities. Maliki will be able to sell this arrangement to his constituency in the same way that he sold the SOFA agreement in 2008, arguing that by appealing to the values of nationalism it is possible to squeeze the Americans: In 2008, the Bush administration pushed for a long-term arrangement and ended up with a 3-year withdrawal plan; in 2011 the focus is on mere "instructors" and Maliki will apparently not give the Obama administration what it wants in terms of legal immunities for those instructors. No agreement on numbers was reached at today's meeting.
He may very well be 100% right or party right. I may be 100% wrong. But to that analysis, I would ask: When did Iraq ever win in the last eight years?
Did I miss that? Did I miss the great defeat of the US?
The Bush White House wanted a multi-year agreement and got it. Does anyone remember what it was Nouri wanted? Probably not because no one ever seems to mention it except us here: Chapter 7. An end to Chapter 7. For the UN to take that away. That's why the UN mandate was dropped. Chapter 7 was not going to disappear while Iraq remained under the UN mandate for occupation.
Iraq's still under Chapter 7. And, as we noted when Jalal Talabani spoke before the UN General Assembly last month, the thing he was pushing was what? For Iraq to be taken out of Chapter 7.
It's not a minor issue to the Iraqi government.
Who won in the SOFA? Bush is out of office. His administration got what they wanted, continued war. What did Iraq get out of the SOFA really?
In the end the SOFA didn't even strip away contractor immunity -- a fact few realized at the time and that the US State Dept avoided addressing -- even telling contractors that they weren't going to ask for clarification on the vague issue. The State Department's contractors have immunity under the Strategic Framework Agreement, it's been argued. If there's not a need to grant it it may also mean that they've interpreted the SFA's umbrella to include immunity for "trainers."

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