Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Feather and Father Game

NBC Mondays

The illustration above was done by Kat, Betty's three kids and Wally and they're capturing NBC's prime time lineup for Monday. I saw Heroes and yuck. I saw Chuck and that was great. Those were season finales. Medium didn't have a season finale but it had a really powerful (and surprising) episode.

We're supposed to write about a TV show we enjoyed that disappeared too soon. For me, it's The Feather and Father Game. That starred Stephanie Powers as an attorney named "Toni." And there was always some confusion for people that would require her saying, "Toni with an 'i'." There was always shock that this attorney named Toni was a woman.

Her father was a con-artist. It was a half-hour show that was a comedy caper. It aired on Saturdays and I believe on ABC. The year was probably 1976. We had our first house and already had started with kids. So Saturdays were not movie nights. Or dinner out. And The Feather and Father Game was just an amusing show that was worth watching and didn't make you feel like you were watching out of desperation.

Harold Gould played her father. He also played Rhoda's father on Valerie Harper's show. And he's always good. But the big surprise for me was probably Stephanie Powers becaue she was very stylish in this show. She'd acted in a number of things by then and she could act. She's an attractive woman but she'd already demonstrated she could act. But this was a different kind of character for her and I'm not sure she'd done light comedy before.

Seeing her play Jennifer Hart on Hart to Hart later, Toni could be seen as a dry run for Jennifer Hart.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Tuesday:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the Senate discusses proposed changes to the War Powers Resolution of 1973, James Baker thought it was a Costume Ball and showed up as Titus Semple, talk of overthrowing Nouri al-Maliki who is more focused on demanding an apology, Steven D. Green's 'nutty' defense, and more.

Starting with war resistance, Iraq War resister Cliff Cornell faced a court-martial this afternoon at Fort Stewart in Georgia where he entered a guilty plea to desertion.

Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on declaring war and the biggest concern appeared to be whether or not the creation of a joint-committee might usurp their own committee. While the turf war raged, Senator Russ Feingold appeared to be the only one who'd read the proposal in terms of how it might actually impact the issue of going to war.

Appearing before the committee as witnesses were BFFs James Baker and Lee Hamilton, packing enough 'bi-partisan' scandals between themselves to rock a Jackie Collins look at DC. The panel was rounded out by Warren Christopher whose service can be traced back to the LBJ years. Senator John Kerry chairs the committee and he called it to order and skipped any messy realities about the three to instead note that "they are here to discuss one of the most vital questions that comes before our democracy: The question of how America goes to war?"

Kerry noted that the reason for the hearing was the "fundamental tension in how America goes to war. The president is commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces while Congress has the power to declare war." Hamilton, Baker and Christopher sat on the National War Powers Commission. No, no election was held to elevate those three to a commission on such an important issue. No, their tinkering around with the law -- and, yes, with the Constitution, is not how things are supposed to be changed per the Constitution. But if DC didn't have cronyism, no one ever be seated for a meal at Marcel's. So three elderly men -- at 78, Lee Hamilton's the baby in the trio -- that few would trust with a bank deposit slip have been put in charge of recommending changes in war powers. As Phil Ochs once sang, "It's always the old to lead us to the war, always the young to fall" ("I Ain't Marching Anymore") and the LiverSpots Trio demonstrated that and then some.

If there was anything more distressing than the absence of senators -- this was a full committee hearing even though the full committee elected to skip it -- it was most likely the huge absence of the press. If changes are being made in how the United States goes to war shouldn't the press be present? Where were they? And while the Real Press was largely absent, where were the beggars of Panhandle Media? Possibly encamped on the White House lawn hoping to get a shot of Bo doing his business.

Their own business apparently did not include fact checking the chair. John Kerry declared in his opening remarks, "What is clear to all is that the 1973 War Powers Resolution has simply not functioned as intended?" Really? Is that what's going on? No, Congress has refused to do what the War Powers Resolution gives them the power to. Equally true is that some aspects have been skirted by presidents. Kerry's starting from a false premise and begging the panel to snow job him.

What Baker, Christopher and Hamilton are proposing is repealing the War Powers Act of 1973 and replacing it with something different. This would be a major change and, again, where was the press?

Baker noted in his opening remarks [PDF format warning,
click here], "Two years ago, Chris [Warren Christopher] and I were approached by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia to co-chair an independent bi-partisan commission to consider an issue that has bedeviled legal experts and government officials since the Constitution was framed -- the question of how our nation makes a decision to go to war." If Baker is an example of those "experts" and "officials," no wonder they're "bedeviled." The Constitution is very clear that Congress, and only Congress, can declare war.

Warren Christopher followed and he gulped water throughout the hearing which appeared to be taxing him. A sure sign that he shouldn't have co-chaired the panel, let alone served on it. He tried to open with a joke but it flopped. Of Baker he declared, "Without going on about it, let me just say that it is a lot more fun working with Secretary Baker than working against him." Again, the joke flopped. He then almost immediately made a case for Kerry to bring down the gavel and end the hearing. Christopher was speaking of the tension between the executive and legislative branches [PDF format warning,
click here] and the issue over declaring war when he stated, "Only a Constitutional amendment or decisive Supreme Court opinion will resolve the debate; neither is likely forthcoming anytime soon, and courts have turned down war powers cases filed by as many as 100 members of Congress." The response to that should be: "Well if only a Constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court verdict can decide the issue then why the hell are we listening to you?"

And that is the thing. What they're proposing resolves nothing. It does, however, weaken Congress' powers. On the plus side, as John Kerry pointed out, it's better to address this now than in the lead-up to a war, "While the nation's attention is not focused on this issue today and while the kleig lights and the hot breath of the media is not as intense here at this moment, everybody in this room and particularly at the table understand the implications and how important it is to be here now trying to figure out the best path through this rather than the middle of a crisis." We're going to zoom in on the most pertinent discussion which took place shortly after Senator Russ Feingold joined the hearing and as he began speaking.

Senator Russ Feingold: I'd like to use some of my time to make a statement and then ask a couple of questions. As we continue to grapple with the profound costs of rushing into a misguided war, it is essential that we review how Congress' War Powers have been weakened over the last few decades and how they can be restored. The war in Iraq has led to the deaths of thousands of Americans and the wounding of tens of thousands and will likely end up costing us a trillion dollars. What if we had had more open and honest debate before going to war? What if all the questions about the administration's assertions
had been fully and, to the extent appropriate, been publicly aired? So clearly any reforms of the War Powers Resolution must incorporate these lessons and foster more deliberations and more open and honest public dialogue before any decision to go to war.
I appreciate that attention is being drawn to this critically important issue which, of course, goes to the core of our Constitutional structure, its' a conversation that we need to continue to have. But I am concerned that the proposals made by the Baker - Christopher commission cede too much authority to the executive branch in the decision to go to war. Under the Constitution, Congress has the power "to declare war." It is not ambiguous in any way. The 1973 War Powers Resolution is an imperfect solution; however, it does retain Congress' critical role in this decision making process. The commission's proposal on the other hand would require Congress to pass a resolution of disapproval by a veto proof margin if it were unhappy with the president's decision to send our troops into hostilities. That means in effect that the president would need only one-third of the members plus one additional member of either house to continue a war that was started unilaterally by the president. Now that cannot be what the framers intended when they gave the Congress the power to declare war. Since the War Powers Resolution was enacted, several presidents have introduced troops into battle without obtaining the prior approval of the Congress. Campaigns in Grenada and Panama are a few examples. None of these cases involved eminent threats to the United States that justified the use of military force without the prior approval of Congress. A simple solution to this problem would be for the president to honor the Constitution and seek the prior approval of Congress in such scenarios in the future. And while the consultation required by the War Powers Resolution is far from perfect, I think it is preferable to the commission's proposal to establish a consultation committee. If this bill had been in place before the war in Iraq, President Bush could have begun the war after consulting with a gang of 12 members of Congress thereby depriving most of the senators in this room of the ability to participate in
those consultations as we did in the run up to the Iraq War. The decision to go to war is perhaps the most profound ever made by our government. Our Constitutional system rightly places this decision in the branch of government that most closely reflects the will of the people. History teaches that we must have the support of the American people if we are to successfully prosecute our military operations. The requirement of prior Congressional authorization helps to ensure that such public debate occurs and tempers the potential for rash judgment. Congress failed to live up to its responsibility with respect to the decision to go to war in Iraq. And we should be taking steps to ensure it does not make this mistake again. We should be restoring this Constitutional system not further undermining it. Mr Baker, part of the premise of the commission's finding, is that several presidents have refused to acknowledge the Constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution, I know that of course in practice, most do honor the Resolution. In your view, does the president's commander-in-chief authority give him the authority to ignore duly enacted statutes?

James Baker: Duly enacted statues? Not in -- not in my view. On the other hand, there have been -- you said most presidents, Senator Feingold, all presidents have refused to acknowledge the -- all presidents have questioned the Constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution.

Russ Feingold: Right.

James Baker: Both Democrat and Republican.

Russ Feingold: Right. I simply said several presidents.

James Baker: Right.

Russ Feingold: But most have honored the resolution in practice.

James Baker: Well that's really not quite accurate, sir. They send -- they file reports "in keeping with," the language is "in keeping with," but never has one president filed a report "pursuant to" the War Powers Resolution.

Russ Feingold: Well, nonetheless, I appreciate your answer to the basic question. It seems to me that much of the ambiguity you attribute to the War Powers Resolution would be resolved if future presidents simply abided by the Resolution -- that would help solve the ambiguity. Mr. Hamilton, before the Iraq War, every senator had the opportunity to at least review the intelligence assessments on Iraq -- particularly the October 2002 NIE. I concluded that there was insufficient evidence to justify the decision to go to war Under your bill, wouldn't the full Congress have even less access to the intelligence supporting the decision to go to war ? Wouldn't that intelligence be limited to the gang of members on the consultation committee?

Lee Hamilton: With the consultative committee, I think you expand the number of members that would be brought into the discussions involving the highest level of intelligence. In other words, you'd have more members involved under our proposal than you do now. Because you --

Russ Feingold: I was a relatively middle - junior member of the Foreign Relations Committee. I was not at that time a member of the Intelligence Committee. At some point I was afforded the opportunity to go down to a secure room and to hear directly from the CIA people whether they felt the same thing we were hearing publicly. And I got to tell you, their tone when they were trying to express these arguments the president was making was rather tepid and it gave me a feeling that something was wrong here. And I would apparently, under this scenario, not have been a part of that process. I'm not saying my role was critical but I did end up being one of the people who went to the floor immediately and said 'I'm not buying this al Qaeda connection, I'm not buying the notion that Saddam Hussein is likely or ready to attack the United States.' It appears that somehow somebody in my situation would not necessarily be able to be a part of that pre-military operation process. Mr. Hamilton?

Lee Hamilton: Well I think under the law today the president doesn't even have to consult with members of Congress before he takes you into war because the provisions in the War Powers Resolution are very vague with regard to consultation. We expand greatly the number of members who would be involved in that consultative process here.

Russ Feingold: It appeared though in this circumstance of Iraq that this was part of the consultative process. That our access to the people from the president's CIA was pursuant to a discussion that led to a vote of the full Senate --

Lee Hamilton: Well the ---

Russ Fiengold: how the process worked. All members -- well perhaps not all. But at least members of the Foreign Relations Committee were given the opportunity to participate in that kind of a set up --

Lee Hamilton: And the proposal that we're putting before you, members of Congress are required to vote on it.

John Kerry: Senator --

Lee Hamilton:You don't have that requirement under present law.

John Kerry: There is no requirement. under present law. What happened is we did it under the prerogatives of each of the committees because the committee chairs and ranking members understood that this was part of the responsibilities Nothing in here -- and we discussed this before you [Feingold] came here -- about this consultative component in fulfillment of the requirement that the president let us know what he's thinking about doing so that those Committees, that's why they're part of it. The Intelligence Committee, the Armed Services Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, would then go about their normal business involving all of their members. I mean, but there's no statute that required that for you either.

Russ Feingold: I'd like to believe that, Mr Chairman, but it strikes me that this provides an opportunity, that the president doesn't currently have, to say, "Look. I went through this consultative process that's provided by this new statute so I have even less a need to go through a formal vote which, as we just talked about, most presidents have decided -- President [George H.W.] Bush on the first Gulf War, even though he may not have taken the view that he had to do it, he went ahead and did it. I think this creates a process that could end run the feeling on the part of a president that he needs to go through a process that would actually involve participation but I'm not saying that this doesn't literally require it --

James Baker: Senator --

Russ Feingold: Yes, Mr. Baker?

James Baker: We require a vote within 30 days so the president is going to be facing a vote of the Congress. If the vote is a resolution disapproval, that is going to very adverse impacts on the president's ability to

Russ Feingold: But in the case of Iraq of course [shrugs, throws up hands]

James Baker: Well that of course -- I mean

Russ Feingold: 30 days after wouldn't have been not too helpful.

James Baker: That's -- that's true. But the president -- both presidents went to the Congress to get approval and actually obtained approval. Back to . Back to the point you made about the c-- about the observance a statute duly enacted and whether a president can question it's Constitutionality. There's all -- there's always been the ability of presidents to question Constitutionality and in this area it has consistently been questioned by both Democratic and Republican presidents. Presidents have sent troops abroad, Mr. Feingold, 264 times -- during which period the Congress has declared war 5 times. So faced with the situation, we expressly -- I think before you arrived, we made it -- we had a dialogue here about the fact that we have expressly preserved the rights of Congress to make the argument that I think you are making and the right of the president to make the argument presidents have made since the War Powers Resolution was passed that the Constitution gives either (A) the Congress or (B) the president the authority. Expressly reserve those Constitutional arguments, put them to the side, they are not going to be solved in the absence of a Constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court opinion. So we don't prejudice either branch. What we're trying to do is find a workable solution here that will improve the relationship and the consultation that takes place between the president and Congress when the nation's going to war.

Russ Feingold: I respect the effort and I respect the intent and it may well work that way. My concern -- and I know my time's up, Mr. Chairman

John Kerry: No, take [more] time, no problem.

Russ Feingold: Is that I witnessed as a non-senator the excellent debate that was held on the floor of the United States Senate prior to the first Gulf War, I also was involved in the truncated and unfortunately weak debate prior to the Iraq War. But any process that could make a president feel that he somehow did not need to go through that process prior to such a major action would trouble me. So that's how I need to review this. Could this lead to that practical effect as opposed to the literal effort you have made to avoid such a consequence. These are my concerns.

James Baker: I don't think so. Let me just quickly answer. I don't believe so because the president has the power today. So we're not -- this effort -- I don't see this as giving the president something he doesn't have today.

Russ Feingold: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

John Kerry: Thank you Senator Feingold. Those are important inquiries and I think worth examining the sort of Iraq experience in terms of the vote up front versus late.

Kerry entered the commission's entire report into the record at the start of the hearing and noted, at the end of the hearing, that the record would remain open for a week to include any additional responses from the panel.

Before Feingold joined the hearing, there were no strong objections from Democrats. In fact, Kerry and others accepted premises that they probably shouuldn't do without speaking to their constituents if they want to at least pretend to represent anyone other than the beltway. For example, there are many people (put my name on the list) who do not believe that pre-emptive war and pre-emtive attacks are illegal (and it is illegal by the doctrine of just wars) so it was really something to hear John Kerry, who damn well knows better, accept the committee's working premise that the president had the right to do those without Congressional authority. For those confused, international bodies say those actions are wrong. Who the hell were these three crooked thieves bouncing between commerce and politics to accept as legal things that are still open to debate?

That and eliminating Congressional authority for war -- currently written into the Constitution -- seemed the main purpose of the Baker-Christopher commission. Some might say, "Well the Court would rule against it if it's wrong!" The Supreme Court is going to decide that Congress shouldn't have surrendered a contested power? No. They've consistently refused to rule on this terrain and were Congress to adopt this craziness the Court would either ignore it or rule that Congress didn't have the power stripped from them, they voted to give it away. This is a very serious issue and Russ Feingold was the only one who appeared to grasp that.

Baker kept talking about "bi-partisanship" and he looked so oily throughout that only two words captured him: Titus Semple. You found yourself longing for Lane Bellamy to show up and explain what they did to out of control elephants in the circus. At one point, he sprayed himself with snake oil and did his best Eddie Haskell grin while declaring the problem was with two political parties, it was between branches of government.

"The problem" James Baker sees is in reality the checks and balances set up in the Constitution and if he has a problem with those maybe he should take his autum years to another damn country. This is not someone who doesn't know better, this is a mad elephant on a rampage, determined to trample everything in his path. As Lane says in Flamingo Road, "You know sheriff, we had an elephant in our carnival with a memory like that. He went after a keeper that he'd held a grudge against for almost 15 years. Had to be shot. You just wouldn't believe how much trouble it is to dispose of a dead elephant."

Richard Lugar's the ranking member. We'll quote in when he manages to finish a sentence as opposed to pretending to ask a question that's nothing but multiple half-sentences strung together for over six minutes. Somewhere in his tape reel of Libyia, the evening news, Ronald Reagan and more he declared "what all you people in Congress need to understand . . ." Who was he speaking to? Presumably every senator on the panel understood their duties. While Edward Kaufman is new (the only one persent who is), Kaufman's run Joe Biden's Senate office for decades. Somewhere around the six minute mark, Lugar finally came up for air.

Or as Warren Christopher put it in one of the panel's most honest responses, "Senator Lugar talked quite a lot". He then went into Section 4a of the statute (committee recomendation) and rushed to assure that "we certainly don't mean to pre-empt the jurisdiction of this committee or other committees." Kerry wanted to know about 3c and how it speaks of the consultation committee make up. Was it an ongoing committee? Baker said Congress could determine that. The back and forth was pointless.

Senator Edward Kaufman compared the War Powers Act to a game of ruby football, noting how it's "been kicked around" and he stated he would feel derelict in his duty if he didn't raise the issue of Declaration of War. Warren Christopher dismissed it as no longer used so nothing to worry about ("The Congress has decided apparently to go the route of authorization . . ."). Kaufman should have pursued that further but, in fairness to him, there was no support for it among his fellow senators (Feingold was not yet present) and the panel played dumb. Kaufman was right to raise the issue and just because Congress uses one tool today or even in the last few decades does not mean it surrenders another one for all time.

Slimy Jim Baker wanted to grin while telling Feingold he missed things discussed earlier. No, he didn't. It wasn't discussed. But he did miss out on Warren Christopher saying the proposals were to help the president "speak to all the members of Congress" and Lee Hamilton adding that 535 members of Congress is just too much and "presidents today do not know with whom to consult." Hamilton explained this would limit who the president spoke to in Congress to a small number which would then spread out the word and, as a result, no member of either house could "complain, 'I wasn't consulted'." Actually, they could. Their remarks were exactly what they would deny when Feingold pursued his line of questioning. They had already established that the committee would be the one to address it and that the members not on that committee would need to get info from the committee (Hamilton: "This provides a president with a focal point for consultation.")

On the Republican side, Bob Corker was the only Republican senator other than Richard Lugar. Corker actually had a few points to make and pointed out that the proposal really doesn't resolve any of the limitations with the War Powers Resolution. Baker agreed but said you'd need a Constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court decision for that. So can someone explain why the Congress should nullify the War Powers Resolution and put in its place something that resolves nothing (but limits Congress' power and scope)? Corker labeled the proposal nothing but a "sort of . . . code of conduct. . . . It's really not going to have the effect of law." Baker shot back, "Oh, it would have the effect of law." Pause. "I think." Corker also disputed some of the exceptions the proposals recommend such as "the safety of the troops." Corker said that out would be there in any action, allowing the president to overrule Congress, because once troops are deployed "the safety of our troops would always be an issue." Baker agreed. ("That's correct. I think that's correct.") This hearing should have had a ton of reporters present. If anything is changed, if the War Powers Resolution is trashed, it will have longterm effects. For the record, the War Powers Resolution? Covered by NPR, Pacifica and all three broadcast networks back in the day.

It's amazing that anyone wants to listen to James Baker regarding war. But others are rehabilitated all the time.
Betty noted Bob Somerby calling out non-journalist Rachel Maddow's latest on-air clowning:

But on last Friday's program, Maddow's interview with Lawrence Wilkerson was, in our view, much worse.
Who the heck is Larry Wilkerson? As Maddow explained in her introduction, he was "chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005." As such, he played a key role in the way the United States went to war in Iraq. In particular, Wilkerson was in charge of the preparation of Powell's UN presentation in February 2003--the presentation which sealed elite opinion in favor of war.
[. . .]
According to Wilkerson, he and Powell were babes in the woods, thumb-sucking innocents who managed to get themselves "snowed" and "used" by others. Powell had even complained to David Frost about the fact that those in the know never came to him with the truth: "What really upset me more than anything else was that there were people in the intelligence community that had doubts about some of this sourcing, but those doubts never surfaced up to us."
No one came to Powell with the facts! Quite correctly, Tim Russert was ridiculed when he made a similar, keister-covering statement to Bill Moyers. And yet, when Wilkerson grandly presented himself on our "progressive" news program last Friday, he received no questions of any kind about this crucial episode. You see, he was willing to call Dick Cheney names! For that reason, he was allowed to gild his own lily and, by extension, Powell's.
Increasingly, this seems to be the peculiar function of Maddow's "progressive" program.

Rachel Maddow was a War Hawk throughout 2004 and 2005. Only when public opinion hugely shifted did she ever stop saying the US had to stay in Iraq. Listeners of Unfiltered damn well remember her constant praise of Colin Powell and her repeatedly getting it wrong about the Pottery Barn analogy -- the Pottery Barn does not have a policy of you-broke-it-you-bought-it. Rachel would drool on air over Colin back in those days. People have this idea that because she's a lesbian she's somehow hugely progressive. She's not. She's a centrist and, most importantly, she will and has sold out everyone to get where she is today -- on basic cable with,
as Rebecca pointed out, very few viewers. She's a media created 'star.' Like a plethora of Vanity Fair cover boys and girls in the 90s who were movie 'stars' because Van Fair told you they were. The box office loudly disagreed. (When's the last time you spotted 'star' Julia Ormond?) Rachel Maddow gets soft and easy press for a number of reasons -- one she uses her friends who are in the closet (hey, she protected her closet case friend who wrote the Ann Coulter Time magazine cover story -- Liar Rachel refused to discuss that story -- a big left story -- or call out Time or the writer and she refused to tell listeners of her show that she was friends with the author); MSNBC needs a female face and 'jock' like Rachel isn't too 'girly' so she doesn't threaten anyone; and, most importantly, she doesn't threaten the power structure. She is a little suck-up who sucks up like crazy. But if those MSNBC ratings keep dropping, this isn't Air America. Her father leading a 'save-Rachel's job!' campaign won't work and will get her laughed off the chat & chew circuit. Rachel worships Colin Powell and will never ask him a tough question and she'll never ask his little buddy one either.

In Iraq, a
Sunday attack in Kut continues to make the news. The pre-dawn raid resulted in two deaths and condemnation from Nouri al-Maliki. Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports that the Iraqi Council of Ministers is stating that the assault was "an unnaceptable breach of the withdrawal of forces agreement between the parties" which would be the thing more popularly known as the Status of Forces Agreement and that it was breached by a military operation being carried out without a warrant or without Iraqi consent (allegedly without Iraqi consent). No alleged on the warrant because if there was a warrant, the US would have waived it around by now. Instead you have US Col Richard Francey running to the BBC to express US forces are "deeply saddened" by the "terrible tragedy." That did not appease the Iraqi government. Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reports they are demanding "an official apology". The SOFA was never carved in stone despite all the bad reports insisting it was. Amy Goodman (Democratcy Now!) noted that the US is now planning to stay in some Iraqi cities beyond June 30th. Of the treaty masquerading as a SOFA, Jeremey Scahill (at CounterPunch) notes:

Of course, the celebrations were and remain unwarranted. Obama's Iraq plan is virtually identical to the one on Bush's table on January 19, 2009. Obama has just rebranded the occupation, sold it to liberals and dropped the term "Global War on Terror" while, for all practical purposes, continuing the Bush era policy (that's why leading Republicans praised Obama's plan). In the real world, US military commanders have said they are preparing for an Iraq presence for another 15-20 years, the US embassy is the size of Vatican City, there is no official plan for the withdrawal of contractors and new corporate mercenary contracts are being awarded. The SoFA Agreement between the US and Iraq gives the US the right to extend the occupation indefinitely and to continue intervening militarily in Iraq ad infinitum. All it takes is for the puppets in Baghdad to ask nicely…

Independent journalist
Dahr Jamail (at Pacific Free Press) observes:

Make no mistake about it - there is a war on. The floodgates of hell have once again been opened, largely as the result of US unwillingness to pressure the Maliki government to back off its ongoing attacks against the US-created Sahwa, which have led to the Sahwa walking off their security posts in many areas, which has been a green light for al-Qaeda to resume its operations in Iraq. In addition, many of the Sahwa forces, weary of not being paid promised wages from the government, as well as broken promises by the occupiers of their country, have resumed attacks against US forces. Again, there doesn't appear to be anything in the short term to indicate these trends will stop.

Sahwa, "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" are all the same group.
Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) notes the targeting of Sahwa and asks the following of the government's intentions:

Is it reaching out to former Sunni insurgents such as Abu Azzam in the true spirit of "national reconciliation," or in hopes of splintering the movement? And will the government's campaign against men such as Abu Maarouf succeed in snuffing out potential rivals? Or is it planting seeds for a long-term Sunni revolt? The crackdown also points to a significant change in the U.S. forces' onetime policy of nurturing and protecting the Sons of Iraq. As the Iraqi government has arrested some of the movement's leaders, forced others into exile and failed to deliver jobs for rank-and-file fighters, the Americans have regularly deferred to Baghdad's wishes as they hand over responsibility for the country's security.

Don't expect answer to any questions from al-Maliki's government, however they are insisting upon one thing: They captured Abu Omar al Baghdadi.
Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) notes, "Iraqi officials have touted the arrest of Baghdadi several time before, and each time the claims have turned out to be false. But they said this time was different." When originally trumpeting this arrest last Thursday, the officials were saying they'd have DNA proof. They still fail to mention DNA. Reilly observes, "Officials may be using the arrest to try to bolster confidence in Iraq's security forces ahead of an upcoming drawdown in U.S. troops here. There's widespread fear among Iraqis that violence will increase when Americans leave Iraqi cities at the end of June, a timeline mandated by an agreement signed last year between Washington and Baghdad." While Baghdad insists it's the 'terrorist,' the US has refused to say so since Thursday. AFP reports the US Defense Dept sticks to asseting they can't confirm it. Sam Dagher and Atheer Kakan (New York Times) note, "The government has not provided proof of his capture since announcing the arrest on Thursday, beyond showing a photograph of a man with a trimmed beard wearing a black T-shirt." al-Maliki might try paying attention to other things. Liz Sly (LAT's Bablyon & Beyond) reports Sheik Ali Hatem Sulaiman "has been trying to rally the support of tribes across Iraq for a tribal conference whose goal, he says, will be to replace the government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki unless certain, as yet unspecified demands are met."

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "the father of two policemen" was brutally murdered in Mosul today.

Turning to legal news,
Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi is the 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was gang-raped and murdered March 12, 2006. James Barker is among those who confessed. The Guardian of London summarized Barker's written testimony, ". . . Green dragged the father, mother and younger sister into a bedroom, while Abeer was left in the living room. . . . Barker said [Paul] Cortez appeared to rape the girl [Abeer], and he followed. He said he heard gunshots and Mr. Green came out of the bedroom, saying he had killed the family, before raping the girl and shooting her with an AK-47."That's what Barker confessed to, Cortez' confession matched it. No need to say "alleged" with regards to them. No need to say it with regards to Steven D. Green. His attorneys are not disputing the statements that he was the ringleader, that he murdered four people, that he took part in the gang-rape or any of it. They're arguing 'yes, but not guilty'. He's being tried in a Kentucky federal court and his trial began yesterday. The ambulance chasing public defenders representing Green are the Keystone Cops of the legal field as they make one offensive argument after another. The case they presented yesterday was, "Yes, he did it, but think about what he went through and think about the fact that some US service members died in Iraq and think about . . ."Think about this, that's as offensive as the argument the judge disallowed. The judge's refused to allow Green's attorneys to argue to the federal court jury, the civilian jury, that they can't judge Green because they weren't in Iraq. The defense offered yesterday is as offensive because it continues one of the threads which is: "This is normal behavior." It is not normal behavior. Were it normal behavior, every US soldier in Iraq would be doing what Green did. The defense is arguing that this is normal behavior and a normal response and it's not and that insults everyone who's served in Iraq or any other war zone.The defense argues it was a normal response (murder and gang-rape) and that Steven D. Green is the victim here because he had problems. No question he had problems. He joined the military because he'd been arrested AGAIN. He joined the military to get out of being tossed into prison. He joined the military from jail. He couldn't get it together, no question.But when you don't dispute the charges and when the charges are multiple murders and gang-rape, when your client could get the death penalty, you don't argue "normal" reaction. You argue that your client is mentally ill and was exhibiting those signs early on.Green was unfit for entry in the military. There's no question of that. To get him, he required a 'moral' waiver. That's your case.When the defense starts asking the jury to feel sorry for Green because it's "normal," they're running off the jury. The argument for this line of defense should be, "Yes, he did this. He did it because he's got huge problems and that's why you need to sentence him to a medical institution."But when the defense wants to claim this is 'normal,' it's offensive. It's offensive to the society we live in. It's offensive to the military. And it also says, "Put him to death." That's what the defense is accidently arguing. If they're arguing this is 'normal' -- and it's not -- the jury's looking at Green and thinking, "Normal for him." Meaning it's incumbent upon them to ensure that he never has the option of doing anything like that again.Does Green qualify for an insanity plea? I don't personally know. But that's all the defense has to argue because everyone else involved confessed to his actions and their own, because he was observed leering at Abeer and stroking her face and doing other things that made her uncomfortable (he was at a checkpoint in her neighborhood and harassed her repeatedly when she would have to pass through). If you're going for the insanity plea, you're asking the jury to consider your client out of control.If you're client's 'out of control' is also, you argue, 'normal' then don't be surprised if a jury decides they're dealing with a rabid dog that needs to be put down.It is very doubtful Green looks sympathetic or will come off as such. The strongest defense is that Green is f**ked up and that this was ignored by every institution and outlet he came before, repeatedly ignored so the jury is the last chance for him to receive help. That might get him institutionalized as opposed to put to death. But the arguments the defense is making currently or more likely to piss of the jury because, again, they're not disputing the charges.Andrew Wolfson (Louisville Courier-Journal) reports Abeer's cousin Abu Farras testified that seeing the corpses, "I thought it had to be terrorists. This was a massacre, not a crime. I thought no American would do such a thing." Abeer's brother Mohammed al-Janabi also testified stating he was coming home when he saw the smoke and had no idea it was his home. (From when Abeer's body was set on fire.) Alsumaria reports, "A relative of the victim's family in Baghdad, Rashid Hamza, said that two family members attended the trial in the United States. He wished the US solider accused of this atrocity be executed." AFP provides this context: 3 soldiers are serving life sentences for their actions and a fourth "was sentenced to 27 months in jail." Steven Robrahn (Reuters) quotes one of Green's attorneys, Patrick Bouldin, telling the jury, "You have to understand the background that leads up to this perfect storm of insanity." AP's Brett Barrouquere has covered this story for almost three years now. He reports on yesterday's proceedings and notes Brian Skaret, one of the prosecutors, explaining that Green and the others had a card game and whiskey, talked about sex and Abeer's name came up, they invaded her home, Green shot her sister and and parents, took part in the gang-rape and then "Steven Green went over to the wall and picked up a gun and he shot her in the face again and again."

Lastly on Iraq, Deborah Haynes (Times of London) did some outstanding reporting the last years in Baghdad. We called her out here once (a blog post about riding in a jeep) and we're not here to award gold stars. Translation, criticized once (or twenty times in one year) is nothing. Haynes did an outstanding job and uncovered many stories (hospitals, pregnancies, exclusive interview with Gen Ray Odierno) that no one else managed to.
She's posted her last blog post at her paper's Inside Iraq and notes what she'll miss about Baghdad and what she won't. She also files a brief report on Camp Cropper (US prison in Iraq) and notes that over 12,350 prisoners remain there currently.

brett barrouquere
caroline alexanderbloomberg newsbbc news
waleed ibrahim
dahr jamail
the los angeles timesned parker
liz sly
andrew wolfsonsteve robrahndemocracy now
the new york timessam dagher
deborah haynes
jeremy scahill

Monday, April 27, 2009


Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Hard Work"

Hard Work

100 days and do you feel the economy's on any stronger footing? Do you feel Barack's seriously addressed it while jet-setting all over the world?

I don't. I don't think he's up for the job and I don't think he's even trying. I think he's more of a joke than George W. Bush and I never would have thought that was possible.

This is from Hillary Is 44's "Draq Queen Obama:"

Increasingly, Barack Obama is a drag queen impersonator of Condolezza Rice.
Remember Condolezza Rice? “Kind-of-sleezy” Rice, as she was unaffectionately known, hid from the obvious and made amazing excuses for why she did not see what was staring her right in the face.
Those of us who attended
the hearings held to investigate events surrounding the August 6, 2001 intelligence briefing called “Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside The United States” will always recall Rice enumerate the many reasons why she and George W. Bush were surprised when Bin Laden attacked inside the United States. The fact that a document called “Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside The United States” existed, was prepared for George and Condi, and they actually were given the document, still did not prepare them for the “surprise” attack.
Drag Queen Rice impersonator Obama is also getting clear signals of the economic disaster the United States faces but Obama remains oblivious.
Well, not exactly oblivious. Obama is lying and misrepresenting what the critics of his “plans” are saying. Obama supporters are engaged in the same misrepresentations.
Jay Cost today calls Obama a “
Sophist” - a polite, roundabout way of saying “liar” in modern day America. Jay Cost quotes Obama and eventually get’s quite angry:
This is from the President’s
remarks at the National Academy of Science:
"At such a difficult moment, there are those who say we cannot afford to invest
in science. That support for research is somehow a luxury at a moment defined by
necessities. I fundamentally disagree. Science is more essential for our
prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life
than it has ever been."
Who the hell is saying we cannot afford to invest in
science? Isn’t the real argument about whether we can spend so much more (fully
3% of GDP) on science, and revitalize the economy, and save the banks, and save
the Big Three, and spend more on education, and reform health care, and
revolutionize the energy sector all at the same time?
I have heard “there are
those who say…” from this President quite a bit in the last three months. I
think it’s time he start naming names. Who are these people who hold such
backward-looking, unacceptable positions? If they are elected members of the
government, shouldn’t the President tell us who they are so we can vote them
out? If they are unelected, how is it they have such power?
Or maybe there
are no such people, at least not of such relevance they deserve specific mention
by the President. Maybe this is just a rhetorical trick designed to make Mr.
Obama’s position seem like the only one allowed by common sense.

Who would have guessed we'd see a third term of Bush? This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Monday:

Monday, April 27, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi Christians are under assault again, a US raid reveals how hollow the SOFA is, the bases reveal how hollow the SOFA is, the talk of the US staying in Iraq cities reveal how hollow the SOFA is, Nouri goes on air with the BBC, Cliff Cornell faces a court-martial tomorrow, the Steven D. Green trial began today, and more.

In Julywar resister
Robin Long was extradited from Canada. He was court-martialed August 22nd. Last month, his civilian attorney posted an essay by Robin to the Free Robin Long website:

ON JULY 14th, 2008, in my final attempt to stay in Canada, where my son and community is, Federal Judge Ann Mactavish stated that I didn't prove I would be treated harshly by the US military for being a politically outspoken opponent to the War in Iraq and Bush Administration policy. She predicted my punishment would be minimal, 30 days in the brig, perhaps. She then cleared the way for my deportation/extradition. She noted only10% of these cases go to Court Martial.
A MONTH later, I was tried in a Court Martial presided over by a judge, a Colonel in the US Army, who has President Bush in her chain-of-command. (She was later appointed by Bush to oversee trials at Guantanamo Bay, no doubt because of her political credentials.
THE ONLY aggravating evidence the Prosecution presented was a 6 minute video of me stating, among other things, that I believed my President lied to me. A political statement. The fact that this was found admissible in court for the charge of Desertion is beyond me. There were no character witnesses brought against me. The ONLY factors the Prosecution wanted shown in determining my sentence was the fact I was political and exercising my freedom of speech in criticizing my Commander-in-Chief.
IT SEEMS like a conflict of interest to have a judge determine my fate when she has to ultimately answer to the President, while I was claiming that same President was a domestic enemy, who used any reason, and manufactured reasons, to invade and wreak havoc in Iraq.
THE JUDGE came back with 30 months- that's two and a half years for not showing up for work that I believed to be morally objectionable, criminal, and its by far the harshest sentence given to a resister/deserter of the Iraq War.
I was saved from that by a plea bargain that got me 15 months. I STILL get a Dishonorable Discharge (DD). A DD will keep me from many fields of employment, from any Government position to the civilian world. It will make getting home loans all the harder. This is a FELONY CONVICTION- which will make it very hard, perhaps impossible to return to Canada to be with my young family. It is the worst grade of discharge there is.
PEOPLE THAT committed far worse crimes have been getting off with lighter sentences than me. 1st Infantry Division soldier Spec. Belmor Ramos was sentenced to only 7 months after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder- 4 Iraqi men. I refused to participate in killings, he stood guard while others executed four unidentified Iraqi men, afterwards dumping their bodies in a Baghdad canal on '07. During his court martial Ramos admitted his guilt, stating: "I wanted them dead. I had no legal justification to do this." Where is the justice? The system is neither fair nor impartial. Can it really be transparent when you don't know who is influencing the judge from up the chain of command? Do you see how the military justice system works? – Condone killings with light sentences, but God forbid someone should call President Bush a liar and a war monger. A persons words and political opinion must be far more damaging to the good order of the military if they are anti war and critical of the President, than a soldiers criminal actions in an occupied foreign nation . . . .

His attorney is James Branum and Branum will be representing Iraq War resister Cliff Cornell tomorrow at Fort Stewart in Georgia. Cliff spent four years in Canada attempting to receive refugee status. As noted yesterday at Third: "Cliff went to Canada in January 2005. He had hopes of asylum and and hopes of a life. In
Mission Rejected, Peter Laufer's 2006 book on resistance, Cliff makes a brief appearance on pages 68 and 69. He and 'Ivan' (neither were comfortable, at that point, with giving their full names, Ivan is Ivan Brobeck) were joking around, Ivan was on skateboard and Cliff was laughing about tossing him out the window." Four years and he became the third known war resister forced out of Canada. February 10th he turned himself into the US military. Dee Knight (Workers World) reported in March that Cliff gave up his right to an Article 32 hearing on the hope that the desertion charge would be tossed out and that "a reduced charge" would replace it. That did not happen. Tomorrow at Fort Stewart, Cliff is scheduled to face a court-martial. Courage to Resist has information here and they are still accepting donations to Cliff's legal defense.

In June 2006, Lt Ehren Watada went public and became the first known officer to resist the illegal war. In
August 2006, an Article 32 hearing was held and, weeks and weeks later, the finding was released: the military would proceed with a court-martial. On Monday, February 5th, Watada's court-martial began. It continued on Tuesday when the prosecution argued their case. Wednesday, Watada was to take the stand in his semi-defense. Judge Toilet (John Head) presided and when the prosecution was losing, Toilet decided to flush the lost by declaring a mistrial over defense objection in his attempt to give the prosecution a do-over. That's not how the justice system works in the US, double-jeopardy is banned. In November of 2007, US District Judge Benjamin Settle ruled, "The same Fifth Amendment protections are in place for military service members as are afforded to civilians. There is a strong public interest in maintaing these rights inviolate." The military stated then that they would appeal. Where does it stand for Ehren currently? (His service contract ended in December 2006. He has continued to report to his base every day as scheduled.) Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) addresed the issue earlier this month: "The Army says it is still awaiting a decision from newly appointed U.S. Solictor Elena Kagan, who was sworn in three weeks ago, as to whether it will appeal a federal judge decision". Yesterday the Ad Hoc Campaign to Free Ehren Watada announced a campaing to contact Solictor General Elena Kagan (202-514-2201) and Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal (202-514-2206) and ask them to drop the charges against Ehren, issue him an honorable discharge and release him from the military. Letters can be mailed to US Dept of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20530. E-mails sent to DOJ@usdoj.gov will be passed on to Kagan and Katyal.

I have no idea why anyone is saying the decision of Judge Settle came down in October (Kakesako's saying just October which implies the most recent October, AHCtFEW says October 2007). It was November 8th. Coverage that back that up includes Hal Bernton's "
Watada court-martial now less likely?" (Seattle Times), Christian Hill's "Court-martial of Watada might not come" (The Olympian), Hal Bernton's "Court bars second court-martial for Watada, for now" (Seattle Times), Aaron Glantz' "Case Crumbles Against Officer Who Refused Iraq" (IPS -- dated "Nov 9" of 2007, Glantz opens, "First Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq, won what his backers are calling a 'huge victory' in court Thursday.") and Amy Goodman included it in the November 9, 2007 headlines.

Turning to Iraq, yesterday US General Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq,
spoke with Rahul Sharma and Anand Sagar (Khaleej Times) and stated that the US forces may remain in some Iraqi cities after June 30th. The Status Of Forces Agreement was rammed through in the final day of the Bush adminstration (which did the ramming) and a copy was only released by the White House to the public after the Iraqi Parliament voted for it (with a huge number of MPs refusing to show for the vote) on Thanksgiving. Prior to Barack Obama being sworn in as president, he had made many objections to the SOFA and a campaign promise at his website noted his and Vice President Joe Biden's objections to the SOFA (Biden made public objections before he was on the ticket with Obama) and how it needed to be rejected. Instead, Barack suddenly decided it was a good thing. Or maybe, the election over, he no longer felt the need to imply there was a huge difference between himself and George W. Bush. Barack's 'big' Iraq War plan is the SOFA. And people continue to operate under the mistaken belief that it is binding when, day after day, it is demonstrated that there is nothing binding about that agreement. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times outlines the basics in an editorial this morning noting of the SOFA, "Under the agreement between Washington and Baghdad, U.S. combat troops would be out of Iraq by August 2010. After that, up to 50,000 -- one third of the present U.S. forces -- would remain with a non-combat role. All 140,000 U.S. troops are supposed to be gone by the end of 2011. The decision on whether to keep U.S. troops in Iraqi cities would be made by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; it would be a tough call, given that a majority of Iraqis want U.S. troops out of the country."

Jim Muir (BBC News -- link has text and video) interviewed puppet Nouri today and apparently forgot to ask Nouri if he condemns the attacks on Iraq's LGBT community. He does let Nouri go on and on. Including a long winded answer where he insists that there will be no change in the June 30th deadline. Until Muir brings up Odierno, anyway.

Jim Muir: General Odierno, the commander of the American forces, has suggested that it might be necessary to keep American troops, for example, in Mosul or Baquba after the end of June if your government asks for that. Is your government prepared to ask for that?Nouri al-Kalminin: The possibility is there. The American side is willing if the Iraqi government asks for it. But so far there is no thought on the part of the Iraqi government to ask for an extension of those forces. On the basis of the field assessment we don't need them and there is no request.

Nouri's lying. Big surprise there. Baghdad's an Iraqi city. US troops will not be out of Baghdad.
Rod Nordland (New York Times) broke that story in today's paper and noted that Iraq and the US are going to focus on Mosul in talks about US troops remaining in some Iraqi cities. Nordland reveals they will remain in Baghdad (he says "parts of Baghdad" -- that means they will be in Baghdad and Baghdad is a city) and that Camp Victory ["Camps Victory, Liberty, Striker and Slayer, plus the prison known as Camp Cropper"] and "Camp Prosperity" will not be closed or turned over to Iraq according to Iraqi Maj Gen Muhammad al-Askari. The SOFA 'requires' that they be closed or turned over but al-Askari says they're making exceptions even though the SOFA 'requires' otherwise. For the mammoth Camp Victory, it is in Baghdad and out of Baghdad, for example, so al-Askari says they consider it out of Baghdad. US Maj Gen David Perkins thinks Mosul will also continue to have US troops stationed there. Nouri should have stuck to his tall tales about how all the female bombers are escapees from mental institutions.

Violence continued over the weekend and one incident raised the issue of the allegedly 'binding' SOFA again. Sunday
Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reported a US raided a home in Kut (Wasit Province) "at dawn," during which two adults -- one male and one female -- were killed by the US military who also made 4 arrests (Iraqi police) or 6 arrests (US military) were made including the arrest of an Iraqi police officer. BBC added Nouri al-Maliki was claiming Iraqis were not informed and didn't give permission; therefore the raid was illegal and a violation of Iraq's soveriegnty. al-Maliki is calling for those responsible for the two deaths to be turned over to Iraqi officials, "The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says it is the most serious dispute between the US and Iraq since the agreement came into force at the start of the year. One senior local official said the actions had rendered the pact 'meaningless'." Reuters reported Kut was the scene Sunday of a crowd of "hundreds" protesting the deaths with signs and slogans referring to the "criminal occupiers,"
Here is the US military's Sunday statement in full on the raid:Coalition forces arrested six suspected members of the JAM Special Groups and Promise Day Brigade and killed one suspected network criminal early Sunday in Al Kut. In an operation fully coordinated and approved by the Iraqi government, Coalition forces targeted a network financier, who is also responsible for smuggling weapons into the country to support JAM Special Groups and Promise Day Brigade. Coalition forces approached a residence believed to be the location of the suspect, as forces approached the residence an individual with a weapon came out of the home. Forces assessed him to be hostile, and they engaged the man, killing him. During the engagement, a woman in the area moved into the line of fire and was also struck by gunfire. A Coalition forces medic treated her on site, but she died of her wounds before she could be evacuated. Forces apprehended six other JAM Special Groups and Promise Day Brigade associates without incident. The Government of Iraq has requested the temporary assistance of US forces for the purpose of supporting Iraq in its effort to maintain security and stability, including cooperation in the conduct of operations against terrorist and criminal groups, and remnants of the former regime. Charles Levinson and Nada Raad (Wall St. Jounal) note, "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a statement calling the raid a 'crime' and said it violated the terms of the security agreement, which requires the U.S. military to coordinate manuevers with Iraqi counterparts." The Chicago Tribune, consistent with other reports, terms it a "predawn raid." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) repeatedly omits the term "dawn" and he repeatedly refers to the "security agreement" without identifying it as the Status Of Forces Agreement. Myers does tell readers the target of the raid was Ahmed Abdul Sada and that the woman who died, Azhar, was his wife and the man who died, Khalid, was his brother. Myers states the US military released the ones arrested but leaves out the fact that the Iraqi government demanded the ones arrested be released. Corinne Reilly and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) quote Iraqi Col Shawqat al Alusi declaring, "There was no approval given." Ernesto Londono and Zaid Sabah (Washington Post) observe: "The incident marked the first time Iraq's government has called for the prosecution of U.S. soldiers and sets the stage for a showdown between the two countries at a time when sectarian violence appears to be spiking."

Sam Dagher (New York Times) reported that the US and England visited Jordan earlier this month in an attempt to convince "Saddam Hussein's top generals" to return to Iraq (and this followed the officials attending a year's worth of meetings between these exiles and reps from Nouri's government). Not for prosecution. To help stabalize the country. They refused. They don't trust Nouri and they don't trust him because of his actions and his many public statements. Dagher notes:On March 28, Mr. Maliki's Shiite-led government arrested a prominent Sunni leader on charges of heading a secret armed wing of Mr. Hussein's Baath Party. A week later, the prime minister accused Baathists of orchestrating car bombings that killed more than 40 people. On Monday, he lashed out again, saying the Baath Party was "filled with hate from head to toe."The de-de-Baathification? That became a 'benchmark'. And so what?What was the point of those 'benchmarks'? They were supposed to allow progress claims to be evaluated. And they were supposed to prevent blood and money being tossed at a puppet government which did nothing. But Nouri didn't do a damn thing. None of the benchmarks took place in 2007. The year they were supposed to. (The provincial elections 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces held in January were supposed to take place in 2007, for example.) There was no effort by the US Congress -- don't just blame Bush here -- to say, "These benchmarks aren't being met. The deal was, Iraqi did A, B, C, D, E . . . and we continued the funding. We are cutting off the funding." That never happened and Nouri signed off on these benchmarks.He signed off on them and then he blew them off. Now Nouri, who loves his show trials, is calling for the heads of US soldiers? That's why the minute Barack was sworn in, he should have done what he promised on the campaign trail, moved to immediately begin withdrawal. He didn't. And now the US troops will not only have to deal with the chaos and violence they had to in 2008, they're also now going to have to know that any mission their commanders send them on could get them tossed in an Iraqi prison.

In other violence over the weekend, Sunday saw the continued assualt on Iraqi Christians.
Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports Kirkuk was the location where 2 women were "murdered in their home" tonight (their throats were slit) and the location where a father and two sons were shot in their home. All attacked were Christians. AFP says the father, Yussef Shaba, was shot dead and two sons (Bassel and Samer) were left injured and they identify the mother in the first attack as Mouna Latif Daoud and the other woman as her (unnamed) daughter. Alsumaria notes, "Chaldeans Archbishop in Kirkuk Louis Sako rebuked these coward and terrorist crimes affirming that Christians are part of Iraq's people and perpetrators should be brought to justice." Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad grenade attack which left two police officers injured. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing which injured three people (two are Iraqi soldiers).

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Mosul Sunday night.

Saturday the
US military announced: "TIKRIT, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division – North Soldier died from injuries sustained following an attack on a patrol in the Kirkuk Province of northern Iraq, April 25. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense." The announcement brings to 4278 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. This is the fourth death of a US service member announced this week and the 15th for the month thus far -- already putting April's death toll ahead of March's.

In diplomatic news, Friday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Kuwait. The
same day US Ambassador Chris Hill arrived in Baghdad (though no one wants to talk about that). Saturday the Secretary went to Baghdad for a brief and unnannounced visit. Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post) noted of the flight into Baghdad, "Once on board, staff and reporters grabbed sweaty body armor from a mound in the back of the aircraft, and practiced strapping on helmets." The US State Dept issued a statement when Clinton arrived in Baghdad noting she would leave through Kuwait but would "meet with Prime Minister al-Maliki, President Talibani, Deputy President al-Hashimi, Foreign Minister Zebari, and other senior leaders in the Government of Iraq. They will discuss issues of common concern including security, stability operations and assistance. Secretary Clinton will also meet with Ambassador Christopher Hill and Multinational Force-Iraq Commander Odierno to discuss the Administration's new direction and change of mission for U.S. forces in Iraq and hold a roundtable with Iraqi women." In addition she was scheduled to "participate in a townhalll with Iraqi citizens who work day in and day out with Provincial Reconstruction Teams, to hear from and discuss with them what they are achieving as well as issues facing the Iraqi people." For a transcript of the townhall, see "Secretary's Remarks: Remarks at the Town Hall Meeting with PRT Leaders and Iraqi Partners"; for a transcript of the press conference with Hoshyar Zebari, see "Near East: Remarks With Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari." NPR's Michele Kelemen (Weekend Edition) offers an audio report of the trip to Iraq.

Steven D. Green goes on trial: "The jury trial will commence on April 27, 2009, 9 a.m. (CDT) and will be held in the Paducah Division of the Western District of Kentucky, located at 501 Broadway, Paducah, Kentucky." Green is on trial for the gang-rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi and the murders of her five-year-old sister and her parents. Green denies involvment. Soldiers already convicted of the War Crimes finger him as the ringleader, as the murderer of all four and as one of the gang-rapists. The others faced military courts because they were in the military. Green was discharged before the War Crimes were known. Andrew Wolfson (Courier-Journal) reports, "In an opening statement in a trial that is expected to last three to five weeks, Justice Department lawyer Brian Skaret said the government will present at least five witnesses who say Green bragged about the crimes, including one who says Green told his fellow soldiers that it was 'awesome'." Green's attorney Patrick Bouldin wanted people to grasp that Iraq's "a perfect storm of craziness" and since he didn't bother to deny the charges, the defense appears to be attempting a plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity by reason of location."

iraqrobin long
cliff cornellcourage to resist
ehren watadahal bernton
christian hillthe olympianaaron glantz
rahul sharmaanand sagarkhaleej timescorpus christi caller-times
jim muir
the new york timesrod norland
the wall street journalcharles levinsonnada raadthe chicago tribunethe washington posternesto londonozaid sabahthe new york timessteven lee myersmcclatchy newspaperscorinne reillyhussein kadhim
sam dagherlaith hammoudithe washington postmary beth sheridan

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fudge Brownies in the Kitchen

Lauren has a gift from her employers, a "furlough." And, no, she hadn't asked for it. She will get over 20 such "furloughs" for the rest of the year. What does that mean? She's going without a day of work, with out any pay. That's nearly a month's pay she'll be losing and that's the Barack Obama economy. FDR employed people, he created jobs, millions of them. Not in "years," but immediatley. Barack could do the same by creating government programs.

Lauren's having a really hard time figuring out her budget and her biggest problem is she needs chocoloate "to nibble on." Can I give her a chocolate recipe? Yes.

Fudge Brownies
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs, 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup of flour
2 and 1/2 sticks of butter

You need to preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Put the chocolate chips and butter into a glass bowl and place the bowl on the right back burner which should have heat from the oven. (Don't turn on the burner.) If this doesn't work, put the bowl into the microwave to melt the chocolate and butter. (If you don't have a microwave, you can melt the butter and the chocolate in a pan on the stove -- with the burner on under the pan -- but you will have to stir constantly or it will burn. I mean stir every second that the heat is on.) So that the brownies won't stick in the pan,
lightly coat it with butter or nonstick spray. Take your flour and salt and place it in a small bowl. With a mixer or a wisk (you can use a fork if you don't have a whisk) whip the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is thick and the color is a light yellow. Add the mixture of melted chocolate and butter to the egg and sugar mixture. [I don't like nuts in my brownies. If you do, get 1/2 cup or more of them and add them to the mixture at this point and strir.] Scoop the mixture into the pan, smooth top with a spoon so that the level is consistent throughout the pan. Pop the pan in the oven and cook for approximately 30 minutes. You can stick a toothpick (or fork) in after 30 minutes. Ideally, nothing on the toothpick or fork. But as long as you don't have something gooey (unless you like gooey brownies) on the toothpick or fork, they are done cooking. Take them out of the oven immediately and allow to cool for 20 minutes. (You can rush it by popping it in the fridge and cooling for 10 minutes.)

Depending upon how you cut it, you could have 12 or 24 brownies from this.

In today's New York Times, Paul Krugman offers "Reclaiming Ameirca's Soul:"

Others, I suspect, would rather not revisit those years because they don't want to be reminded of their own sins of omission.
For the fact is that officials in the Bush administration instituted torture as a policy, misled the nation into a war they wanted to fight and, probably, tortured people in the attempt to extract "confessions" that would justify that war. And during the march to war, most of the political and media establishment looked the other way.

You can use this forum at the ACLU to demand accountability on torture from the US Attorney General. And, as Paul Krugman notes, there's no reason investigations can't be pursued. They would be handled by the Justice Department and would not require pulling 'economic advisers' off their duties in order to investigate torture.

I found this from Dan Eggen's "Cheney Requests Release of 2 CIA Reports on Interrogations" (Washington Post) to be interesting due to the time line:

Former vice president Richard B. Cheney is asking for the release of two CIA reports in his bid to marshal evidence that coercive interrogation tactics such as waterboarding helped thwart terrorist plots, according to documents released yesterday by the National Archives and Records Administration.
Cheney's request was submitted March 31, more than two weeks before President Obama decided to release four "top secret" memos in which Bush administration lawyers sanctioned harsh tactics for questioning prisoners.

Now what do you suppose that was about? This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday:

Friday, April 24, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Chris Hill breaks his first Iraq promise, Cliff Cornell's court-martial is set for next week, and more.

We're going to start by looking back. Six years ago, the New York Times [Sunday] Magazine featured Peter Maass' "
Good Kills" which demonstrated all that was wrong with war reporting (April 20, 2003, pp. 32 - 37). Predictions? Maass opened with them: "As the war in Iraq is debated and turned into history, the emphasis will be on the role of technology -- precision bombing, cruise missiles, decapitation strikes." Really? Is that what anyone talks about today? And did they really talk about it then? No and no. But that was what the first Gulf War was about and lazy reporters couldn't capture what they were seeing -- apparently the US education system has failed them and they lack the ability to put their observations into words -- so they tried to use a narrative from a previous war.

Six years ago, this story demonstrated how the embeds were a success . . . for the US military. Reporting on his 'buddies' in The Third Battalion, Fourth Marines, Maass smoothed over all the edges even when the edges were dead civilians. Especially when it was dead civilians. Entering Diyala Province (though Maass didn't use -- and probably didn't know -- the term), his 'buddies' were drgiving over a bridge. He calles this attempt to get across the Diyala River (by vehicle, over a bridge) "a signal event in the war" -- which indicates the other problem. The reporters were so jacked up on their own sense of being 'history' that they jerked off in print and the audiences back home were stuck with it. What were minor events were suddenly 'epic' just because a reporter was embedded.

"BATTLE IS CONFUSION." And you know Maass stood by it because it was in all caps. But REPORTING IS CONFUSION when reporters forget their role. As the marines attempt to travel (drive) over the bridge, things get, as Maass puts it, "complicated." We have wasted four pages on his War Porn when finally readers learn (in less than two pages) that civilians were being killed. This 'big battle'? Lt. Bryan McCoy is thrilled that people are dying. He utters a censored word -- the paper renders it "[expetives]" -- describing Iraqis and then self-strokes, "Boys are doing good. Brute force is going to prevail today." He adds, "We'll drill them." And indeed McCoy and the others did. But they were civilians attempting to cross the bridge from the other end. Civilians were attempting to drive across the bridge. Proving what a fool he was Maass -- even after it's known that civilians were killed -- is still writing about these precision shootings. A moving car's engine block is being taken out? Didn't we hear that one after the shooting on the car containing Giuliana Segrena? And those bullets were everywhere. Maass writes, "As the half-dozen vehicles approached, some shots were fired at the ground in front of the cars; others were fired, with great precision, at their tires or their engine blocks. Marine snipers can snipe." Can Maas gush over his 'buddies' any more foolishly and any less journalistically?

After he's done gushing, after approximately two-thirds of another page has been wasted, Maass finally informs, "The vehicles, it only later became clear, were full of Iraqi civilians." Now what reader would feel cheated? You got Maass playing Miss Cleo and offering predictions, you got pages and pages of rah-rah, you got everything but reporting and there's not a great deal in what remains of the article. Despite, for example, speaking to one survivor, Eman Alshamnery, who was shot, whose sister was shot dead along with two other people in one of the cars, he really doesn't have much to say. He speaks to another survivor who is digging graves to bury people and Maass doesn't have much to say. No one knows how many people were killed -- despite Maass and other journalists being present, Maass never feels the need to give a death toll. He estimates at least six cars with people and also one old man walking (with a cane) on the bridge were shot dead. But the number of dead isn't important to him. Nor is it important to give voice to the survivors.

But, naturally, he offers plenty of space for the marines such as Lance Cpl Santiago Venture who explodes when another journalist (unidentified) disputes a marine's assertion of "Better safe than sorry" and another's pant of "I wish I had been here" by noting that "the civilians should not have been shot." Why is that? That really is what a reporter using six oversize pages (the Sunday Magazine is the size of Rolling Stone until the recent 'downsize') in a magazine should be able to answer. Maass does note that maybe warning shots whipping through the air aren't readily heard or recognized by civilian populations. And maybe more so when the firing is coming from people in camo that the civilians can't see. Just idle observations that readers really have to fill in to grasp what's being inferred but not said: You don't grasp that these 'tink' sounds hitting your car are bullets being fired by people you can't see. And the US marines weren't trained to grasp that just because your instructor tells you someone under fire will stop doesn't mean that's what happens in the real world (as has been demonstrated in Iraq over and over).

But why did the journalist say the civilians should not have been shot? The journalist isn't quoted or even mentioned except for that sentence and another where "the journalist walked away". Hmm. Maybe because the Genever Conventions insists that those engaged in combat "distinguish themselves from the civilian population while they are engaged in an attack or in a military operation preparatory to an attack. Recognizing, however, that there are situations in armed conflicts where, owing to the nature of the hostilities an armed combatant cannot so distinugish himself, he shall retain his status as a combatant, provided that in such situations, he carries his arms openly; (a) during each military engagement, and (b) during such time as he is visble to the adversary while he is engaged in a miliary deployment preceding the launching of an attack in which he is to participate." That's the Geneva Convention. That's what Maass can't tell you about, what he wouldn't tell you about.

It's not just that it's 'bad' and 'sad' that these Iraqis were killed, it's that the way in which they were killed was, as described by Maass, a violation of the Geneva Convention. Maass can't be bothered with things such a the law. Much better to present the whole thing as if it were a traffic jam on some epic scale. No one's at fault, people died. Oh well. That is his 'angle.' It's embarrassing, it's not journalism. While he can't be bothered with explaining or citing the law, he does make time for the excussed. Ventura is quoted at length with a 'defense' that includes: "We've got to be concerned about our safety. We dropped pamphlets over these people weeks and weeks ago and told them to leave the city. You can't blame marines for what happened. It's bull. What are you doing getting in a taxi in the middle of a war zone?"

"Our safety"? Actually, as the invading force, you've got to be concerned with the civilian population and, are in fact, bound by law to protect the civilian population -- protect and not harm. "Dropped pamphlets" and people were supposed to leave their homes? And go where? And go why? Because another country told them to? Can't blame marines? Did the civilians shoot themselves? A taxi in the middle of a war zone? In the middle of Iraq, in the middle of their country, in the middle of their lives, in the middle of their homes. "Their" being the key term as in "theirs" not "ours."

Peter Maass, of course,
wrote about knowing Salam Pax -- an Iraqi blogger who worked for the New York Times though Maass' inflated self-opinion turned it into 'works for me'. The same ego that allowed him to think he had the right to disclose various details about Salam Pax without checking with Pax first. Talk about arrogance and a sense of entitlement. If you're missing it, note "working alongside -- no, employing --" Pax and "there were occasions when I stayed in my room and let Salam loose for several hours." Let him loose for several hours? Is he a dog? For all who whine about Devil Wears Prada type of employees, grasp that it's the pompous employers who write the most insulting 'memoirs.' Last month, at his own website (The Fear), Salam Pax noted AP's assertion that Baghdad' was "calm . . . in part because the city is now ethnically divided." To which Pax added, "No s**t! You're not telling me anything new here. This was government and US army policy. Who put up the walls cutting the Sunni districts from the rest of the city?" Pax also takes on the assertion that "Shia militiamen and death squads" are now "off the street":

Is the writer being wilfully naïve? I am sure he knows better. The militias might have disappeared but one of the main reasons why these Shia neighbourhoods are safer than other districts is because Shia political parties were allowed to have their own organised security and militia forces. Like the Kurdish parties no one was allowed to question the right of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq in having it's own militarised arm, the Badr Organisation. And al-Dawa under al-Maliki started their own security brigade, in the guise of a counter terrorism brigade.
The Sunnis on the other hand were left to fend for themselves. And between the Mahdi Militias with their ominous slogan 'Our regular programme will resume after this break' and the other Shia security forces the 'Awakening Groups' were too little and too late. The harm was done.

"Awakening," "Sons of Iraq" and Sahwa all refer to the same group and the
Boston Globe editorialized about it yesterday: "One sign of trouble is how Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government has been treating the so-called Awakening Movement. . . . The Awakening fighters were promsied that once Al Qaeda was crushed, they would get jobs in the police and other security forces. But the Shi'ite-dominated government appears to be breaking that promise. Not only has it been slow to hire former Sunni insurgents, but it has allowed several Awakening leaders to be arrested on the basis of flimsy allegations. If this sectarian behavior is not stopped, sooner or later it may result in a resumption of calamitous Sunni - Shi'ite violence." independent journalist Dahr Jamail observed this week (at ZNet) that the whole thing was "ripe with broken promises" and:

It is an easily predictable outcome. An occupying power (the US) sets up a 100,000-strong militia composed of former resistance fighters and even some members of al-Qaeda, pays them each $300 per month to not attack occupation forces, and attacks decrease dramatically. Then, stop paying most of them and tell them they will be incorporated into Iraqi government security forces. Proceed to leave them high and dry as the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki begins targeting them - assassinating leaders, detaining fighters and threatening their families. Allow this plan to continue for over six months, unabated.Not surprisingly, the Sahwa are fighting back against US forces and those of the Iraqi government.

Wayne White of the Middle East Institute in Washington told Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor), "if you continue arresting and harassing, and shunning Awakening types -- many of whom were originally derived from the insurgency -- you're really playing wtih fire." Yesterday, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reported a roadside bombing outside of Baquba which claimed the life of Sahwa leader Mubarak Hammad al Obadi and 3 of his aids while leaving two more aids wounded. Violence is increasing (again) in Iraq. James Hider (Times of London) adds that "Awakenings" "have been repeatedly targeted by militans, and complain they have not received support from the Shi government, which views them with deep distrust." Hider notes an investigation by his paper "revealed that widespread abuse of power and corruption among Iraq's sprawling new security forces are also stoking resentment among the population, stirring people to carry out attacks." Hider also reported on that investigation into Iraq's police and he notes, "In the desperate rush to drag Iraq back from civil war, sweeping powers were granted to its new security forces. Human rights workers, MPs and American officials now believe that they are all too often a law unto themselves: admired when they defeat terrorists but also feared for their widespread abuse of power." Hider also reports on a video of a woman being raped (video shot by a mobile phone) and ex-Falluja Mayor Jassim al-Bidawi identifies the man in the video "as an Iraqi police officer" and says the one filming the rape is as well: "They are thought to have drugged the woman as she visited her husband in a detention centre in Ramadi. Since the rapist's uncle is a senior policeman in the city the attacker is all but untouchable, Mr al-Bidawi says." Tina Susman and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) reported Thursday on a woman, Dalal, who was in a Tikrit prison where she was "raped by prison guards," she informed her brother who visited her "drew a gun and shot his visibly pregnant sister dead." They explain how common assaults on women are and how easily buried. No one is imprisoned for either raping Dalal or for murdering her. No one was fired. Just another example of the ongoing femicide in Iraq.

Staying on the topic of Iraqi women the
Janan Collection is Iraqi women's arts and crafts. Megan Feldman (Dallas Observer) reports that the collection/colletive was started by Ty Reed who was a US soldier serving in Iraq when she encountered a young Iraqi widwo named Fatima who, like many other Iraqi women, was now the sole support for her family. Fatima explained that she and approximately 24 other widows "had artistic skills such as basket-making, painting or leather-working. Could Reed help them find a way to earn a living?" So Reed and Teresa Nguyen (Ty Reed's sister) started up the collective and there will be an online auction May 9th. Feldman notes, "The work on tour now includes traditional baskets, ornaments and jewelry made of leather, turquoise beads and gold, as well as paintings like Harvest Moon, a minaret-studded cityscape set against a glowing moon. . . . The proceeds from just one painting, Reed said, will support the painter's family for at least a month."

More widows and widowers and orphans in Iraq today as
yesterday's violent bombings with mass fatalities is echoed. This morning Ernesto Londono and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) reported that at least 135 people have been killed in Iraq bombings today and yesterday with today seeing 55 dead and one-hundred-and-twenty-five wounded in a double bombings near a Shia mosque in Baghdad. Timothy Williams and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) explain the double bombings were suicide bombers ("within five minutes of each other") outside "the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadhim and his grandson." The Times link also has audio option where Myers says, "The bombers came up and mingled with the crowd while they were waiting to get into the shrine that you mentioned and blew themselves up nearly simultaneiously as near as we can figure." He also stated, "It seems very clear that the last few attacks have targeted the Shi'ites in Iraq particularly." Corey Flintoff (NPR) adds, "Until the country can reach power-sharing arrangements among its ethnic Kurdish and its Shiite and Sunni Arab communities, Iraq remains vulnerable to attacks by al-Qaida and other militant groups, analysts say." James Hider (Times of London) notes that the death toll hit 60. Aws Qusay, Zahra Hosseinian, Michael Christie and Louise Ireland (Reuters) observe: "The attack was the deadliest single incident in Iraq since 63 people died in a truck bomb blast in Baghdad on June 17 last year, and came amid growing concerns that a recent drop in violence might turn out to have been just a temporary lull." Laith Hammoudi and Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) quote eye witness Hammad Faisel stating, "There were piles of bodies. I saw a man running after the explosions to get away, but he quickly fell. I watched him die."

There was other violence in Iraq today and we'll note that but the bombings and Iraq were a good portion of the second hour of
The Diane Rehm Show today so let's note this from Diane and her guests Karen DeYoung (Washington Post), Daniel Dombey (Finanical Times of London) and Yochi Dreazen (Wall St. Journal).

Diane Rehm: Daniel Dombey, let's talk about this latest violence in Iraq. Another explosion this morning, a suicide bomber killing perhaps as many as 125.

Daniel Dombey: These are obviously awful events with terrible human costs. I think, however, the key thing to bear in mind is this is a crucial year and any easy assumption that meant -- that went from the progress of last year in terms of safety and security to believing that this coming year would mean that Iraq would just go on getting better was always going to be a perilous one. There are lots of longterm political problems in Iraq. Maybe those have been papered over. Maybe we focus too much on the military side. And this is becoming ever more clear. It's a very important year in Iraq. There are an awful lot of tensions in the country.

Diane Rehm: What does this mean or what could this mean for US plans to reduce the military in Iraq, Karen?

Karen DeYoung: The statements that have been made as various withdrawals have been announced have been very careful to say 'We know it's not going to be totally peaceful in Iraq when we leave. We believe we have set up political and economic structures that are lasting and it's up to them to deal with it.' I think that you -- it's interesting that these attacks in -- over the past two days in Baghdad and Diyala are believed to have been Sunni groups against Shi'ites in at least two cases at mosques where people were worshiping [and] don't involve US troops. I think that we're concerned about the north where we believe al Qaeda still is around Mosul and we're concerned about Kirkuk which is the kind of oil center in the north which is being contested by the Kurds and the Arabs. Uh, it's been intimated that we might be asked to stay a bit in those cities but I think these kind of bombings -- Iraqi on Iraqi in Baghdad and father south -- I think are not going to hold up the plan to depart.

Diane Rehm: Yochi Dreazen, would you agree?

Yochi Dreazen: I think it depends on which part of the plan one is scrapping. US troops have already made clear that they're going to stay in bases that they consider to be 'joint bases.' So if there is -- pretty much all US bases now have Iraqis on them. The interpretation that US commanders have is that they're allowed to stay on those bases beyond summer of 2010. They can stay on those bases pretty much until all troops leave. So I think that the US footprint in major cities will shrink further but it's not going to be as if we disappear. I mean, we will still have a fairly large footprint in Baghdad, we'll still have one in Mosul. Falluja, which we've pulled out of entirely, has had a spate of bombings lately so now US troops at Ramadi and Taqaddum -- the two bases closest to Falluja -- have begun inching closer back to that city as well. I think the broader point is that if they're had been a broader political consensus that the US hoped would emerge from stability consensus wise and that consensus is very fragile in part because the decisions about Kirkuk, about Arab-Kurdish delineation of powers and oil money were never made. They've been kicked down the road, down the road, down the road. Now we're leaving so the vacuum is re-emerging and those questions still have to be answered.

Daniel Dombey: Yes, I would absolutely agree with that. I mean there are some very fundamental problems in Kirkuk where you have this Kurdish-Arab tension and, actually, US forces have increased in Kirkuk in recent months. You also have this basic critique that Obama always made of the Bush policy which was it didn't concentrate enough on the politics and, in fact, we don't really see a political initiative so far in terms of the US to try and push deals in Iraq. But you haven't had a US ambassador there so there is a US ambassador who is headed out this week. But it's an enormous struggle to reach any kind of an accord in Iraq. It's a very important year though as we've seen Maliki really try to consolidate his power and lots of tensions emerging as well.

Diane Rehm: But you know what's interesting? What's happened is that Iraq has completely knocked Afghanistan off the front pages. Now we see concentration on the suicide bombings in Iraq but also what's happening in Pakistan. We were planning to send more troops to Afghanistan, removing them from Iraq. Now how is all of this going to be effected, Karen?

Karen DeYoung: I think the, you know, this year, they've already settled on which troops are going to Afghanistan and the request from the commanders there is for another 10,000 next year which has not been authorized. I don't think that's going to seriously impinge on plans to withdrawal from Iraq. Right now those are the only requests. The 21,000 that were authorized, actually 21,000, for this year and a request that the president has not signed off on for an additional 10,000 next year. Right now there are not additional requests to send more troops to Afghanistan and, in fact, the Secretary of Defense, Bob Gates, has said many times, as have others, there's a limit to the number of troops you can send to Afghanistan.

Diane Rehm: Have Americans, with the exception of military families, stopped caring about Iraq, Yochi?

Yochi Dreazen: I think even in the military there's been a massive shift of military manpower and military mental power. Within the military the question now is how do you try to win Afghanistan and stabilize Pakistan. It's less Iraq. I think there was a bit of false complacency that came in when violence fell and Obama won and made clear his plan to leave. To the degree that anybody was still following Iraq, and I think many people had tuned it out, at least a year earlier if not longer, there's a belief that we won, that the war was over. Violence was down, we were going to leave. Things were not great but there was a somewhat functioning government and now we could do something else. And when that happened, I remember getting an e-mail from someone in Baghdad saying that we in the US could decide to leave and we could say we're done with our part of the fighting come 2010 or 2011 but there's another side and that side might want to keep fighting. And I think what you're seeing now is that there is another side, it does want to keep fighting and we're going to decide do we keep fighting to?

[. . .]

Yochi Dreazen: I think that the intent of those carrying out the attacks is precisely that issue. You're trying to stir up renewed Shia on Sunni violence and reprisals. To be honest, I don't think it's going to work -- in part because Shia political power is stronger and more stable across the Arab portions of Iraq then it's been at any point since 2003. Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army which had been the main form for Shia reprisals is largely receded into the background. A lot of its members no longer affiliate themselves with him or his movement. I think the intent is clearly that if a Sunni group carries out an attack big enough or horrific enough, some Shia group will carry out a revenge attack. So the hope would be -- obviously, I use 'hope' not in the way we would use it -- the hope would be that if you kill 500 Shia at prayer one day, something bad will happen, Shia on Sunni. To be honest, I think that was what happened in '05, '06, '07. I think to a degree early '08. I think that has largely played out.

Diane Rehm: So do you all believe that what's happening in Iraq now is not going to effect US plans to draw down troops moving forward? Karen?

Karen DeYoung: Uh, not right now, I don't think it will.

Diane Rehm: Not right now.

Karen DeYoung: I think that what was said previously, that what we think of as a complete withdrawal eventually is not going to be a complete withdrawal as soon as we -- as we think it will.

Diane Rehm: And what happens to those large bases that the United States has built in Iraq?Karen DeYoung: They're supposed to be turned over to Iraq eventually --

Daniel Dombey: You've got. Oh, I'm sorry.

Karen DeYoung: No, go ahead.

Daniel Dombey: You've got to remember a three-stage process. By June of this year, the US is supposed to be out of major cities although with the conditions that Yochi mentioned before. By August 2010, it's supposed to cease combat operations which is an Obama phrase that probably doesn't mean anything very much. And by the end of 2011, it's supposed to be out completely. Now that's actually according to a deal negotiated with the Bush administration. Whether that's going to happen -- that's a long way off One criticism of Bush and a criticism of Obama is that you really need to get the politics right. The real priority, however, for the US, is for Iraq not to provoke a regional conflict.

Diane Rehm: Mmm-hmm.

Daniel Dombey: That's why something like Kirkuk, which is something that involves the Kurds, the Arabs and Turkey -- which does not want Kirkuk to fall under Kurdish control, is so sensitive. They do not want Iraq to be a source of instability in the region. I think that they're prepared for Iraq to be a less than wonderful place for Iraqis to live in.

Yochi Dreazen: If I -- if I was a betting man, which I would never publicly admit to being, I would put considerable money that there is absolutely no chance that we would be out of those big bases by the end of 2011. The bases are so beyond-belief enormous. I mean, the Victory compound out by Baghdad airport is roughly 50 square miles, it's huge. You have thousands and thousands of tons of equipment, tens of thousands of vehicles. So the idea that somehow in the next two years all of these bases will be dismantled is non-existant. Beyond the fact that US officials have made clear all along that, should the Iraqis request it, maybe we'd stay beyond 2011. And you can envision a 100 scenarios --

Diane Rehm: Of course

Yochi Dreazen: -- in which the Iraqi government says we need you.

Steven Lee Myers of NYT (audio link again): "The fact is that not many American troops have yet withdrawn so the numbers are still high." That's an important point and also one made in a Congressional hearing this week that Jim, Dona, Ava and I have already decided is part of an editorial for Third Sunday. There are parts you probably agree with above and parts you don't. Some you may strongly disagree with. What's interesting is how November 2007 is actually the crucial period if you want to talk US draw down. That was avoided. We may cover it at Third or here next week.

But right now, some of the other violence.
Hussein Kahim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which killed police Maj Raad meki and left three people in his car injured and a Jalwlaa car bombing which claimed 2 lives and left twenty-six people injured. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and injured another, a Sinjar sticky bombing claimed the life of "the son of a local sheikh" and, dropping back to Friday, a police major was shot dead in Kirkuk.

Today the
US military announced: "TIKRIT, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division - North Soldier died in a non-combat related incident in Salah ad Din province April 24. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings to 4277 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. This is the third death of a US service member announced this week and the 14th for the month thus far -- already putting April's death toll ahead of March's.

Tuesday Chris Hill was confirmed as US Ambassador to Iraq. AP reports Hill arrived in Baghdad today. And they seem on the point of gushing that it's only "three days after" his Senate confirmation. What the hell have they been drinking? Reality, the unqualified Hill has already broken his first promise. As John Kerry noted in the Senate Foreign Committee's hearing on Hill March 25th, Hill stated he would leave for Iraq "within a day of his Senate confirmation." Does it matter? Yeah it does. You say you'll do something, you better do it. This is another example of Hill telling the Congress one thing and then doing another. And it makes John Kerry look like an idiot because, in his opening remarks at that hearing, Kerry argued against any attempts to delay Hill's confirmation stating that it "would do a serious disservice to our efforts" in Iraq if senators attempted "holding up a vote on Ambassador Hill's nomination." Kerry said, "This is not a time for delay." He added, "The committee will move to quickly discharge Ambassador Hill, who has committed to depart for Iraq within a day of his Senate confirmation." Committed. And he already broke it. It's not a minor issue and one more sign that Hill's a little 'too casual' when it comes to job responsibilities.

Winding down on Iraq,
Mattis Chiroux faced a military board this week (see Tuesday and Wednesday's snapshots). The board has a recommendation. Yesterday, Matthis wrote a very intense and moving account of his life thus far. We've noted the process here and a few people have e-mailed to dispute where it stands now. In Tuesday's snapshot, I'm going by three officers I spoke to on the phone and one JAG attorney I spoke with in addition to a woman Jess spoke with and she typed up the process and e-mailed it. Here is that e-mail:

SGT Chiroux's duty status will not change today because his case is notcomplete. HRC-St. Louis will compile the board record and complete alegal review prior to forwarding the case through the Commander, HRC-STLto the Commanding General, Human Resources Command. Before he left today, SGT Chiroux was informed of the Board's findingsand recommendations. Due to Privacy Act constraints, I am not able todiscuss this with you. SGT Chiroux remains a member of the Individual Ready Reserve until theCommanding General takes final action. This is expected to occur inseveral weeks' time. Thank you, v/r, Maria Quon LTC, U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer U.S. Army Human Resources Command-St. Louis 1 Reserve Way St. Louis, MO 63132-5200 (314) 592-0726 [. . .] Classification: UNCLASSIFIED Caveats: NONE
Based on the conversations and the e-mail, the board made a recommendation or even a decision but it goes on up the chain of command. No one is attempting to insult Matthis in any way. Nor to, as two e-mails suggest, take something away from his victory. But I'm not Scott Horton. Translation, I can't know the truth and say something else. I can't say "Bush is going to be indicted!" when I don't know that's true. The e-mail published above is censored only to take out Quon's e-mail -- which is her business one but I'm not comfortable having that in there. I didn't speak to anyone in public affairs. Jess spoke to her and she e-mailed him. What she's stating in that e-mail is what I was told by three officers familiar with the procedure and by one JAG attorney who knows the drill. We met the three-source rule with two extra.
At Courage to Resist, a piece by Matthis Chiroux states he was awarded a recommendation by the board. I don't know where people are seeing something other than that but I've explained why we have worded it the way we have and, again, it's also the way Chiroux himself does. Also at Courage to Resist:

Cliff Cornell was denied sanctuary in Canada; will face general courts martial Tuesday, April 28 at Ft. Stewart, Georgia
Donate to Cliff's legal defense here ]56 people have given $2,270 as of April 22. Goal: $3,000
By Friends of Cliff Cornell. Updated April 22, 2009
The U.S. Army has charged Specialist Clifford Cornell, with desertion. Cornell, 28, surrendered himself to authorities at Fort Stewart, Georgia on February 17, after being denied refugee status in Canada. The Arkansas native left Fort Stewart four years ago, when his artillery unit was ordered to Iraq. According to family and friends, Cornell did not want to kill civilians, and said that Army trainers told him he must shoot any Iraqi who came near his vehicle.

That's this Tuesday. Turning to public television
NOW on PBS examines rape in "Justice Delayed:"A terrible statistic: one in six women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. But an even more shocking reality: A backlog in processing rape kits--crucial evidence in arresting violent predators -- is delaying and sometimes denying justice for tens of thousands of American women. NOW travels to Los Angeles County to investigate why it has the largest known rape kit backlog in the country--over 12,000 kits are sitting untested in police storage facilities. An internal audit found that more than 50 of these cases have exceeded the 10-year statute of limitations on rape. "The evidence that we're talking about represents human lives," Los Angeles Controller Laura Chick tells NOW. "Those are lives stacked up on the shelves waiting for justice." NOW talks with courageous rape survivors and law enforcement experts for insight and answers in this disturbing but important report. Are these women being victimized twice?

NOW on PBS begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (check local listings) as does PBS' Washington Week which finds Gwen sitting around the table with Dan Balz (Washington Post), Joan Biskupic (USA Today), Jeanne Cummings (Rona Barrett's DC) and Mark Mazetti (New York Times). Also on PBS (and starts airing tonight on many PBS stations, check local listings), Bonnie Erbe sits down with Kim Gandy, Amanda Carpenter and Avis Jones-DeWeever to discuss this week's news on To The Contrary. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers: Vice President BidenIn this profile of Joe Biden, Lesley Stahl spends three days with the vice president and also interviews his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and his boss, President Barack Obama. Watch Video
Powered By CoalCoal is America's most abundant and cheap fossil fuel, but burning it happens to be the biggest contributor to global warming. Scott Pelley reports. Watch Video
The OrphanageIvory is selling for nearly $1,000 a tusk, causing more elephants to be slaughtered and more orphaned babies in need of special care provided by an elephant orphanage in Kenya. Bob Simon reports. Watch Video

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