Saturday, January 06, 2007

Egg Drop Soup in the Kitchen

Winter's really here now
And the blankets that I love
-- "Nightbird," written by Stevie Nicks and Sandy Stewart, from the CD Wild Heart.

I was reading Jade's e-mail and thought, "That's how Kat would start this post." Jade points out that is winter and lists the soups she loves. Soups are good for winter because they warm you up. Along with the soups Jade knows how to make (chicken noodle, tomato, French onion) she noted a soup she purchases at least once a week, Egg Drop Soup. She wondered if that was an easy soup to cook, one that she could cook herself at home?

Egg Drop Soup is a very easy soup to make at home both in terms of actually cooking as well as the ingredients that go into it. In fact, outside of tomato soup, right now, I'm not thinking of an easier soup to make. With, for instance French Onion soup, you're slicing a number of onions. With Egg Drop Soup, you only need one green onion (which has no tear factor when slicing).

It's also true that most of the screw ups you might encounter while cooking it do not lead to the soup needing to be dumped. It's very hard to screw this up. Even if you forget to stir, you're left with Egg Soup which can be eaten. This is a very simple recipe and other recipes call for ginger root, tofu, etc. So consider this the basic, bare minimum.

Basic Chinese Egg Drop Soup
Chicken broth
Dash of salt
Dash of white pepper
1 chopped green onion
2 eggs

Heat the chicken broth (medium heat). How much? I would use three cans. If you're concerned with sodium content, you can use 2 cans and use one can of water (for those using instant powder or their own stock, go for three cups of broth). Add a dash of salt (unless you're watching sodium count).

Add pepper. The beauty of this recipe is that many of you will have everything in the kitchen already. On a cold day when you don't want to go out, you can easily fix this. If you don't have white pepper in the kitchen, you can substitute black pepper.

My sister breaks the eggs and adds them straight into the hot water (hot, not boiling). She quickly begins stirring (with a fork) and manages it quite well. But I've always cracked the eggs in a bowl and stirred them with a fork while in the bowl. I then 'spoon' (I use a fork) them into the hot water a little at a time to get those strands/shreds that are the basic of Egg Drop Soup.

As you add the eggs, you'll need to stir with the fork. The first time you make this, add a little of the egg and begin stirring to get an idea of the basics.

If you're not as talented as my sister and you add all the eggs at once, you may easily end up with Egg Soup and not Egg Drop Soup. Once you've added all the eggs, add in the chopped green onions.

And now? You're done. It's a very simple recipe but, in case anyone's confused, you're using the egg white and egg yolk. You do not use the egg shell. An obvious point, it may seem, but I did have a question recently that made me wonder if some obvious points were less obvious to all.

(The question wasn't about eggs and I'm not making fun of it or the person who asked. Just noting that if you grew up watching someone cook, you're aware of much that we take for granted when giving out recipes. Not everyone is on the same page.)

If you haven't stirred enough, you'll have more of an Egg Soup, which you can still eat, and know that next time you need to stir more.

Hopefully, that will provide Jade and others with a simple, basic recipe.

Each Saturday, C.I. highlights Margaret Kimberley's lastest "Freedom Rider" column and I always enjoy that. She, Glen Ford and Bruce Dixon now do the Black Agenda Report and it comes out on Thursdays. I have it linked on my 'blog' roll but I wanted to be sure anyone who visited knew about it so I'm providing an excerpt to Stan Goff's "White Man's Iraq Burden: The 3,000 Milestone" as a reminder that the site is worth checking out:

Once we understand that one faction, led by one leader, who has consistently called for Iraqi national unity and the expulsion of the US military and US control over the development of Iraq's post-occupation foreign affairs orientation -- and that this same leader is harboring a militia that exceeds the size of the American occupation itself within the radius of Baghdad and environs, within a stone’s throw of the Green Zone -- the answer to the question becomes blazingly clear.
Neither Hakim nor Maliki can afford to appear too cozy with the American occupation or the Bush regime, without risking wide scale abandonment by their respective popular bases. Stating that
the American occupation is "unpopular" might be the understatement of the year. At the same time, neither Hakim nor Maliki has the power to control Baghdad, the symbolism and practical political value of which is inestimable, without the American occupation. (They are, in fact, unable to do it with the occupation’s assistance.) SCIRI has its main offices located in Iraqi Kurdistan (in the north), with its popular base in the south along the Iranian border. Ayatollah al Hakim, then, does not even have a safe haven for his militias co-located with his zone of greatest geographic influence. The only thing they are co-located with are the American armed forces.
It is not surprising that the Badr Army (Hakim's SCIRI militia), then, has largely operated jointly with Americans outside Shia areas (
against Sunnis) often using the same modi operandi as the former death squads of US proxies in Latin America. The facts on the ground, then, include that Muqtada al-Sadr now controls the only viably independent Iraqi armed force in Baghdad; and that force has popular support as well as massive home court advantages. It is, in a word, embedded.
What all Iraqi armed actors have in common is the relative inability to project their force far afield of their respective geographic bases. Sadr has no capacity to attack anyone in Samarra or Ramadi (though the Mehdi have ventured some distance from home in the south). The Da'wa has no capacity to leave the city limits of Nasiriya. SCIRI cannot move its troops without US escorts. The Sunni factions are limited to their areas of operations (and there are numerous reports that
Sunni nationalists are engaged in occasional heavy fighting against a small but stubborn number of foreign Wahabbists). The only force in Iraq that has the mobility required to do more than defend ones own zones of influence and project very limited offensive operations beyond that… are the Anglo-American occupiers. The only way to move long distances across the country as an armed unit passing through multiple militia "jurisdictions," is with helicopters, or heavily armed and armored convoys.
The current civil war is taking place not for Iraq, but
for Baghdad, and the catalyst remains the US occupation.
Poor Maliki, called to an audience with his
King George in Amman, is faced with Sadr’s threat to withdraw from the Parliamentary majority coalition with Da'wa if the meeting with the Occupier-in-Chief happens. The resistance is targeting Iraqi troops for collaboration, the Badr Army is fomenting a civil war with straightforward attacks on Sunnis and false flag operations against fellow Shias, and the US is demanding Iraqi troops assist them in attacking Sadr City.
One day, Maliki stands George Bush up to show his own people that he is not a puppet; the next, he has to go crawling back to Dubya, even as the infamous
Hadley memo calling Maliki a dolt is released and replayed in the media again, and again, and again.
Seeing this as purely power politics, the mistake that got the administration to where they are now -- disregarding the roles of the Iraqi masses themselves --
Bush then turns to Hakim, thinking he has now split Sadr off from Maliki. Hakim himself is now trapped, faced with the same specter that haunts the Green Zone, possibly tens of thousands of combatants, embedded deeply in their own community near the heart of the second largest city in Southwest Asia, and the capital of Iraq, led by a leader whose popularity is increasing with the "Iraqi street" with each passing day.

Stan Goff is a name I didn't know before The Common Ills. I've enjoyed his writing that's been highlighted and excerpted by members and chief among those was when he called out Mommy's Pantyhose (and Mommy's Pantyhose's war on CODEPINK) as well as called out the man I dub "The Parrot." I also wanted to note that one because it used the 3,000 milestone as a reflecting point and most media didn't. You could argue (strongly) that most media didn't even note the milestone and I would be the last to disagree with you.

I was honestly appalled to see how little attention the milestone (we hit it last Sunday) received.
We were having a small New Year's Eve Party here when Mike called with the news and, as I wrote, it was reality. If some felt it would 'spoil the mood,' well a lot of 'moods' get spoiled during a war and while you might need to worry about that during a children's birthday party, adults aren't supposed to get a pass from reality. It does appear that media, especially independent media, gave themselves a pass from reality, however.

Turning to the topic of music, Elaine's "Carly Simon, Matthew Rothschild, Jorge Mariscal, Iraq" and Rebecca's "chatty city" both noted Carly Simon's latest album Into White. I am in love with that CD and recommend that if you're a Carly fan or a fan of songs in their purest form, you get the CD. (My husband and I will be buying it shortly, we've kidnapped our son's copy.) It's just a beautiful CD. My favorite track right now, a difficult choice, is probably track ten which combines the Everly Brothers' "Devoted To You" (which was a hit remake for Carly and then-husband James Taylor in the seventies) and "All I Have To Do Is Dream." But it is a hard pick. I also love the new version of her own "Love Of My Life."

Betty's "'The First Factually Challenged Fool" is up and I had an e-mail from Joy wondering why I didn't note it last weekend? Betty and I are both once a week bloggers so I always try to note her latest. The time stamp on last week's "The truth emerges from his fat mouth" (which you really should read first to follow the plot) is Friday, but Betty didn't post it until late Saturday morning.

I was talking to C.I. this morning and mentioning yesterday's snapshot and Ehren Watada, when C.I. steered me to Jake Tapper's "Senate Regrets the Vote to Enter Iraq" (ABC News):

As the new Democrat-controlled House and Senate take power this month, the Iraq war will be the front-and-center issue.
And as President Bush prepares to announce his new strategy for Iraq, which may include a surge in troops, the attitude of the Senate towards the war — and whether its members regret their overwhelming 77-23 October 2002 vote to authorize the president to use force in Iraq -- is critically important.
ABC News decided to survey the views of the senators who served in 2002, most of whom remain in the Senate. The survey indicates that those senators say that if they knew then what they know now, President Bush would never have been given the authority to use force in Iraq.
It's impossible, of course, to recreate all of the factors, pressures and information that went into this momentous vote. But given that President Bush may next week request that an additional 20,000 or more troops be sent to Iraq — to fight a war 7 in 10 Americans think he isn't handling well -- we thought it might prove a significant indicator of the support for the war to see where these same senators from 2002 now stand. Regret, after all, may not be a valued commodity in politics, but it is not one that public officials express easily, even with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. That said, a surprising number of senators who voted for the war were willing to say that they, and the Senate, made a mistake.
By ABC News' count, if the Senators knew then what they know now, only 43 -- at most -- would still vote to approve the use of force and the measure would be defeated. And at least 57 senators would vote against going to war, a number that combines those who already voted against the war resolution with those who told ABC News they would vote against going to war, or said that the pre-war intelligence has been proven so wrong the measure would lose or it would never even come to a vote.
For any Senate vote to switch from 77-23 in favor to essentially 57-43 against is quite remarkable, and far more so for a decision as significant as the one to go to war.

So the Senators wake up to the truth? Unlike the average citizen, their responsibilities were a bit greater since they had the power to okay war or not. But the senators have awakened. So have the American people. And in the snapshot, which I'll copy and paste in a minute, the point is made about Ehren Watada's own awakening. Kat's "Lizzie West, students, Iraq, etc." talks about a number of things including the speaking they were doing this week and she notes that C.I. was either composing Friday's snapshot before students or testing it out on them. I asked C.I. about that and was told, "I honestly hadn't thought about that but if you're looking for one answer it would probably be that the students on Friday and I wrote that together" over several speeches.

I think that's a wonderful answer. I also think it takes Ehren Watada's courageous stand from beyond the I-Could-Never-Do-That terrain into the, "That could have happened to me." It did happen to a lot of people. A lot of people believed out of fear or trust that the government would not lie and the media would call them out loudly if they did. That takes Ehren Watada's heroic stand and makes it very easy to relate to.

What he's on trial for, you can argue, is what's happened to the country (and the Senate), realizing that we had been lied into war. His trial matters for a number of reasons but when you think about the court-martial he faces on February 5th, realize that his awakening has been echoed by the country. He's not just on trial, we the people are.

Ehren Watada's story is also the story of how people increase their knowledge and understanding and, as C.I. points out, you'd think independent media would be running with his story because it does prove that independent voices speaking against a corporate media sold war can make a difference. You'd think independent media would realize that his awakening is part of their own success story. But that hasn't happened and I find that very sad.

From Friday, here's C.I.'s latest "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, January 5, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, US war resister Ehren Watada's pretrial hearing began yesterday, Bully Boy shuffles the deck while an "I told you so" travels across the Atlantic from France, and Ahmed Hadi Naji, who worked for AP, is discovered dead.

Monday, February 5th, the US military attempts to court-martial
Ehren Watada. Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. Yesterday, at Fort Lewis in Washington, a pretrial hearing began that will determine what arguments are allowed in the court-martial and what arguments will be disallowed. The hearing was presided over by Lt. Col. John Head, the court-martial would have a jury made up of *a panel of officers*, and the AP reports that he will make his decision on "the parameters of the case" next week. Melanthia Mitchell (AP) reports that on Thursday: "Watada's parents sat in the back of the courtroom during the hearing, his father at times leaning forward on the bench with his hands clasped in front of him." As Linton Weeks (Washington Post) noted, Carolyn Ho, Ehren's mother, is a high school counselor who went on leave to raise awareness about her son and is on leave for the pretrial and the court-martial. Bob Watada, Ehren's father, has also been engaged in speaking tours around the country to raise awareness about Ehren and, for any wondering, Bob Watada recently retired (and recently remarried, Rosa Sakanishi, Ehren's step-mother, has accompanied Bob Watada on his speaking tours).

The US military wants to reduce the court-martial to a "yes" or "no" -- Did you refuse to deploy to Iraq? They wish to prevent
Ehren Watada from explaining his decision -- in effect that are hoping to prevent him from making the best defense possible when he is facing six years in prison.

Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) reported: "At a hearing Thursday at Fort Lewis, there was little dispute about the action taken by 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who last June refused to deploy with his brigade to Iraq. But defense and prosecutors sparred much of the afternoon about whether Watada's motives for opting out of the war should affect the outcome of a February court-martial trial that could result in a six-year prison term." If the military was interested in justice (and sure of their case), they wouldn't be attempting to shut down Watada's defense.

The prosecutor, Captain Dan Kuecker has stated, "
There is no rational doubt in this situation; . . . it's a lawful order." Were he as sure of himself as he pretends to the press, there would be no attempts to prevent Watada from explaining both his actions and the reasons behind them.

Watada explained the reasons most recently to Kevin Sites (Kevin Sites in The Hotzone): "I think that in March of 2003 when I joined up, I, like many Americans, believed the administration when they said the threat from Iraq was imminent -- that there were weapons of mass destruction all throughout Iraq; that there were stockpiles of it; and because of Saddam Hussein's ties to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 terrorist acts, the threat was imminent and we needed to invade that country immediately in order to neutralize that threat. Since then I think I, as many, many Americans are realizing, that those justifications were intentionally falsified in order to fit a policy established long before 9/11 of just toppling the Saddam Hussein regime and setting up an American presence in Iraq. . . . I think the facts are out there, they're not difficult to find, they just take a little bit of willingness and interest on behalf of anyone who is willing to seek out the truth and find the facts. All of it is in the mainstream media. But it is quickly buried and it is quickly hidden by other events that come and go. And all it takes is a little bit of logical reasoning. The Iraq Survey Group came out and said there were no weapons of mass destruction after 1991 and during 2003. The 9/11 Commission came out and said there were no ties with Iraq to 9/11 or al-Qaeda. The president himself came out and said nobody in his administration ever suggested that there was a link. And yet those ties to al-Qaeda and the weapons of mass destruction were strongly suggested. They said there was no doubt here were weapons of mass destruction all throughout 2002, 2003 and even 2004. So, they came out and they say this, and yet they say it was bad intelligence, not manipulated intelligence, that was the problem. And then you have veteran members of the CIA that come out and say, 'No. It was manipulated intelligence. We told them there was no WMD. We told them there were no tides to al-Qaeda. And they said that that's not what they wanted to hear'."

In essence,
Ehren Watada is on trial for the media -- the media that sold the illegal war and the media that told the truth (eventually for some) about it. So it has been surprising to see nothing on Watada in the leading independent magazines in 2006. In 2007, The Nation discovered Watada on page 14 of the January 8 and 15th double issue in an article written by Marc Cooper (click here for Yahoo version -- subscribers only at The Nation website). Like many Americans, Watada believe the spin/lies from the US administration (repeated near word for word by most media outlets with little skepticism). Like many Americans, he's since come to see that reality and spin were two different things.

This new awareness is reflected not only in the civilian population but also, as
Rachel Ensign (Citizen Soldier) reminds us, within the military as well: "A new poll conducted by the Army Times newspaper at the end of 2006 found that a majority of soldiers polled now disapprove of how Bush has conducted the Iraq war to date. . . . Only 41% of soldiers polled today think that we should have invaded Iraq -- down from 65% in 2003. This closely mirrors sentiment among civilians; only 45% of whom now believe that the war was a good idea."

Michael Gilbert (The News Tribune) reports that, based on comments and questions during the pretrial hearing, Lt. Col John Head "likely won't allow Lt. Ehren Watada to defend himself" by making the case for his actions and why he acted as he did and that Head declared, "At this point I'm not inclined to grant a hearing on the Nuremburg defense." The Nuremburg defense is in reference to the Nuremberg trials during which soldiers stating that they were only following orders were told that was not a legal excuse for their actions. As Ruth noted, following the August Article 32 hearing of Watada, "The message that Lieutenant Colonel Mark Keith appears to be endorsing is follow all orders but, if it later turns out that they were illegal, you are on your own and will take full responsibility. At best, like with Lieutenant Calley, the War Monger in the oval office may pardon you after you are convicted. What is the message? Why teach the obligation to follow only legal orders, why refute 'I was only following orders' as a defense and then punish Lieutenant Ehren Watada for doing just that while advising him that it is not his place to make such a determination when, in fact, the invididual who obeys the unlawful order is the one who will be held responsible by the military justice system?"

Why teach? Refer to
Ruth's Report where she goes over retired Col. Ann Wright's testimony at the Article 32 hearing on what she taught soldiers at the JFK Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg while teaching the Law of Land Warfare. Taught is FM 27-10 (Law of Land Warfare):

509. Defense of Superior Orders
a. The fact that the law of war has been violated pursuant to an order of a superior authority, whether military or civil, does not deprive the act in question of its character of a war crime, nor does it constitute a defense in the trial of an accused individual, unless he did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know that the act ordered was unlawful. In all cases where the order is held not to constitute a defense to an allegation of war crime, the fact that the individual was acting pursuant to orders may be considered in mitigation of punishment.

Ehren Watada could be prosecuted for actions committed during war by the above; however, the US military does not want to allow him to use the same law to defend himself. Only a fool would call that "justice." This is what Eric Seitz, Watada's attorney, is noting when he told Linton Weeks, "The United States talks out of both sides of its mouth. We've prosecuted soldiers in other countries for following orders to commit war crimes. But God forbid you should use that refusal as a defense in this country."

Christian Hill (The Olympian) reports, however, that the military prosecution may have outfoxed itself: "The judge, Lt. Col. John Head, told prosectors that he was not inclined to grant the evidentiary hearing, but 'they opened the door for him allowing it by prosecuting his statements'" thereby making it "relevant. Some of those statements have become relevant by the sheer nature of how the government has charged this case."

Head was not referring to the charge of missing deployment but the charge ("conduct unbecoming") based upon remarks Watada made about the war such as ""
The wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of Iraqis is not only a terrible and moral injustice, but it's a contradiction to the Army's own law of land warfare. My participation would make me party to war crimes." Remember: A Citizens' Hearings is being convened January 20-22 at Evergreen State College.

Ehren Watada's awakening mirrors that of many Americans. It also has echoes
in the growing resistance within the military to the illegal war as many resisters vocalize sentiments similar to Watada's (usually noting the works of Howard Zinn). Others that a part of this growing resistance within the military include
Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Appeal for Redress is collecting signatures of active duty service members calling on Congress to bring the troops home -- the petition will be delivered to Congress this month.

While Watada faces court-martial for questioning the illegal war, France's president earns headlines for doing the same.
AFP reports that Jacques Chirac speech today revolved largely around the illegal war: "As France had forseen and feared, the war in Iraq has sparked upheavals that have yet to show their full effects . . . exacerbated the divisions between communities and threatened the very integrity of Iraq. . . . It undermined the stability of the entire region, where every country now fears for its security and independence." (Chirac's also getting attention for, in the same speech, calling for slashing corporate taxes.)

Before noting some of the violence today in Iraq, let's note December again.
Steve Negus (Financial Times of London) notes that the Iraq Interior Ministry's figure of 1,930 Iraqis dead for the month of December (an undercount) remains "a new high" for any month. Meanwhile, the count for US troop fatalities in Iraq for the month of December reached 115.


Reuters reports: "A roadside bomb struck a U.S. marine tank in the western city of Falluja on Friday", while a roadside bomb wounded four Iraqi soldiers and killed anohter in Baiji, and a roadside bomb in Kirkuk left two police officers wounded. Christopher Torchia (AP) reports
four Iraqis killed on the "outskirts" of Baghdad from mortar attacks.


Mohammed al Awsy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in the Diyala Province. Reuters reports that "a former colonel" was shot dead in Mosul, as were a father and son in Iskandariya.


Mohammed al Awsy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 12 corpses were discovered in Baghdad ("2 sadr city, 2 dora, 2 amil, 2 jihad, 2 hurriyah, 1 kadhemiyah, 1 abu atsheer"). Reuters notes that three corpses were discovered in Iskandariya. And AP reports that Ahmed Hadi Naji, 28-years-old, "was found shot in the back of the head Friday, six days after he was last seen by his family leaving work". AP notes that he is "the second AP employee killed in less than a month" and that he is the fourth "to die violently" in the illegal war. They note that Ahmed Hadi Naji is survived by his wife, Sahba'a Mudhar Khalil, and his four-month-old twins, Zaid (male) and Rand (female). Christopher Torchia (AP) reports that Ahmed Hadi Naji had worked "for the AP for 2 1/2 years".

Aref Mohmmed (Reuters) reports that one "American civilian contractor and two Iraqi translators" were kidnapped in Basra today.

Changing focus . . .

So let's be really clear, torture in Iraq is rampant and that's because it's policy even though we have had a replacement of Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld who infamously told . . . general, retired, now retired, but at the time general, [Janis] Karpinski '
make sure this happens' regarding specific torture techniques that he wanted to begin using inside places like Abu Ghraib well that policy hasn't changed as I said, these people are still being tortured, they're just not letting people bring in their video cameras and their digital cameras so that the images can find themselves splashed across the screens of 60 Minutes II program, for example.

What is that?
Dahr Jamail speaking with Nora Barrows-Friedman on yesterday's
KPFA's Flashpoints (use either to listen to an archived broadcast -- Rebecca's "nora barrows-friedman interviewed dahr jamail on flashpoints" offers an overview of the interview).
For an hour, Nora Barrows-Friedman and
Dahr Jamail reviewed the year 2006 in Iraq, focusing on the death squads, women, children, attacks on civilians and much more.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Dahr, can you talk now about the permanent US military base structures this was being talked about openly and publicly in the spring of 2006. But how has that discussion progressed and what does a permananet US military base structure look like on the ground? How many are we talking here?

Dahr Jamail: We started out with over a hundred bases in Iraq and they are slowly consolidating this number down to, right now it's around, it was 53 last time I checked. So they're slowly consolidating them down and if people want an idea of what Iraq might look like in the next couple of years, well we just have to look at Afghanistan because that's where, kind of, this model started and there's a couple of years jump there. And if you look at Afghanistan, we've got, I believe, four major bases right around the area of where I believe the proposed pipeline's going to go. So we should expect something similar but more bases in Iraq. There's going to be, right now it looks like, between six and twelve, we're not real sure on the number, but between six and twelve of these permanent bases. The military and the corporate media won't call them permanent because they don't have to, because they just made sure that they would have permanent access into particular areas in Iraq and so there was nothing in the so-called constitutional referendum that took place on October 15 a year ago that banned access from a foreign country, that's why there was a lot of wrangling along that constitutional referendum and why even someone in the UN that I spoke with, I quoted him as saying there was 'undue, inappropriate, US influence on this constitution' and it was around Iraq's oil and it was also around permanent access. So as a result we have between six and twelves of these bases. Just to give you an example of what these bases look like there's one called Camp Anaconda which is actually an air field in Balad, just north of Baghdad, and Camp Anaconda is a base that has 250 of its own aircraft. Air Force officials there claim that it was the second busiest runway on earth. There are 20,000 soldiers on this base less than a thousand of whom ever leave whatsoever. There's a base exchange there where they sell televisions, iPods, CDs, DVDs, TVs, there's a first run movie theater, . . . very elaborate meals served by Kellog Brown & Root employing third country nationals which is kind of the way these people are referred to in Iraq by the contractors but really if we're going to call them what they are, they're slaves. They're people from places like India and Sri Lanka and Bangladesh working for slave wages serving these very elaborate meals because with the cost plus fix fee contract that means that when Halliburton is serving these very elaborate meals the more money they spend in Iraq, the more money they make. So that's what's being served in a huge base like that. Soldiers actually gain weight and if they don't of course want any of that food or if they get burnt out on it like say you would at a college, for example, at a college dorm, well then they can go to the 24 hour Burger King, they can go to the Popeye's Fried Chicken, they can go to the Subway sandwich shop, and then wash it down with a latte from Starbucks. So that's just one of these bases to give you an idea, there's also AT&T phone home centers, there's also a Hertz rental car which I find kind of amusing because it's not like they're going to leave the base and go for a little drive in Al-Anbar Province but there it is, Hertz-Rent-A-Car, . . . I like to specifically name these companies so people can take note of that. So that's what these bases look like in Iraq and to contextualize that a little bit, it sounds a lot like some of these bases we have in Germany now, doesn't it, which have been there, what are we talking now, a little over sixty years, so just to give people an idea of what the situation is on the ground regarding the bases, we talk about the US' so-called embassy in Baghdad that's being built as we speak. This was a $572 million contract that was awarded to a very corrupt . . . Kuwaiti construction firm with very direct ties to the Bush administration and this is an embassy that's going to have room for between 3 and 8,000 government employees, it has its own school . . . so I don't think we should expect any Iraqi kids at this school, it has the largest swimming pool in the country, yoga studios, barbershops, beauty shops, its own water plant, it's own electricity plant, it has apartment buildings. And when it's complete, it will be, it's 21 buildings and the area will be the size of the Vatican City. So that's the so-called embassy that's being built in Iraq so if we talk about when are we going to withdraw troops and why aren't the Democrats talking about withdrawal, this sort of thing, instead why is there talk of a 'surge'? It's because we . . . just need look no further than the physical evidence on the ground, augmented by the US policy like the National Security Strategy and the Quadrennial Defense Review Report -- all of these signs point towards permanent occupation of Iraq just like we have in Germany.

But never fear, Democrats are in power in the US Congress which translates as . . . a strongly worded letter.
CNN reports that "leaders of the new Democratic Congress" sent an open letter to the Bully Boy which "said increasing troop levels in Iraq would be a 'serious mistake'." That's telling him! (And shades of the letter Carolyn Ho got from Congress.) AFP reports that the letter states "it is time to bring the war to a close." And no doubt, this wouldn't have even happened were it not for the activists on Wednesday (sse Thursday's snapshot). Cindy Sheehan, who handled the press conference Yawn Emmanuel and other Congress members fled from, today on Democracy Now!, addressed the realities too many elected Democrats want to avoid: that the war is costing the US 10 million dollars every hour, that plans and programs will cost money and defunding the war needs to be placed 'back on the table,' that the people want the war ended and the Democratic Party was voted into office not to wait around for another laughable 'plan' from the Bully Boy, to get the United States out of the illegal war.

Meanwhile, in shuffling the chairs on the deck of the Titanic,
AFP reports that Bully Boy nominated the now former US director of national intelligence John Negroponte to be the Deputy Secretary of State -- second to Condi -- while he "announced that he had chosen vice adminiral Michael McConnell, a former head of the National Security Agency, to replace Negroponte at the head of all 16 US spy agencies". And as Christopher Torchia (AP) notes,
generals John P. Abizaid and George Casey will be replaced shortly.

Returning to news of war resisters, earlier this week,
Mary Ambrose (New American Media) took a look at war resisters who seek asylum in Canada and noted the stories of Chris and Stephanie Teske -- Chris decided to self-checkout while stationed in Germany but US troops do not "have access to their passports" so, after deciding on Canada, Stephanie: "I cried a lot and told them we'd spent $3,000 on these tickets and my parents were waiting for us and frankly, we just got lucky."